Child care center wins lawsuit alleging it caused woman's arrest

By Kyla Asbury | Nov 5, 2013

CHARLESTON - An order granting summary judgment in a lawsuit against Good Shepherd Child Development Center over a child's broken collarbone and his mother's arrest was granted earlier this year.

On Feb. 7, the order granting summary judgment in favor of Good Shepherd was filed.

On Jan. 24, a pre-trial hearing was held in which the court heard arguments on Good Shepherd's motion.

"Whereupon, after consideration of the parties respective motions as well as any responses thereto and after consideration of the oral arguments of the parties as well as a thorough consideration of applicable law, the court is of the opinion to grant Good Shepherd Child Development Center Inc.'s motion for summary judgment and deny plaintiff's motion to continue hearing," the order states.

The court concluded that Good Shepherd is immune from liability for the claims asserted in the plaintiff's complaint pursuant to West Virginia code.

"Good Shepherd's employees gave statements to detectives from the (Charleston Police Department) who were investigating O.N.'s broken collarbone, which plaintiff alleged occurred at Good Shepherd. Importantly, this investigation was initiated by plaintiff's own complaint to the police and her allegation of child abuse and/or neglect at Good Shepherd," according to the order.

In this matter, the court concluded that there were no genuine issues of material fact with respect to whether Good Shepherd employees participated in the CPD investigation in good faith, according to the order.

"The evidence in uncontroverted and unrebutted that they did. Plaintiff has not offered even a 'scintilla of evidence' demonstrating there are genuine issues of material fact," the order states.

On Aug. 14, 2009, Megan L. White signed her then 3-year-old son into the daycare center, according to a complaint filed Aug. 17, 2011, in Kanawha Circuit Court.

White claimed later that day she called the daycare regarding a financial matter and was told by a staff member that her son was complaining that his arm hurt, but “not to come pick him up ‘because he tells stories.’”

White left her place of employment immediately and went to the daycare. She claims she immediately noticed her son’s right shoulder did not appear normal, so she took him to the hospital.

After checking her son into the hospital, White asked the hospital staff to call the police and investigate the injury, according to the suit.

White claimed the hospital staff determined her son sustained a broken right collarbone, placed it in a sling and discharged him from the hospital.

That evening, White called her estranged husband, Benjamin B. Nettles, to inform him of their son’s injury, according to the suit.

White claimed Nettles became angry, “cursing and abusing” her and demanded to speak to their son. She claims when she held the phone to their son’s ear, she heard Nettles repeatedly say to their son, “Mommy did this to you, didn’t she?” and eventually the child said yes.

Another individual was present and also heard Nettles repeatedly make the same statement, according to the suit.

On Aug. 15, 2009, White claims Nettles picked their son up from White’s residence for court-ordered vacation time.

On Aug. 19, 2009, White and Nettles met at the office of Bone & Joint Surgeons, Inc., and Dr. Jason A. Castle informed both parties that the child sustained a broken right collarbone, but that it had probably occurred at the daycare center and not at White’s residence, according to the suit.

White claimed despite this, Nettles maliciously and without just cause, filed a domestic violence petition against her. White claims she was not allowed to have contact with her son until after a hearing was scheduled and that the Charleston Police Department became involved in the investigation.

As a result of Nettles’ false accusation of child abuse and false statements made by the daycare center, White was arrested and charged with felony child abuse, was identified in a Charleston newspaper and was subjected to intense investigation by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources-Child Protective Services, according to the suit.

White claimed the criminal charges were dismissed on Sept. 11, 2009, and that the family court dismissed the domestic violence petition on Nov. 10, 2009.

The daycare center was untruthful with regard to White’s son being injured when he was signed into daycare and was responsible for the aftermath White endured, according to the suit.

White was seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. She was being represented by Clinton W. Smith.

Good Shepherd was represented by John R. McGhee, Jr. and John D. Hoblitzell III of Kay Casto & Chaney PLLC.

The case was assigned to Circuit Judge Louis H. Bloom.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 11-C-1383

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