Dept. of Human Services v. J.M.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Juvenile Law
  • Date Filed: 04-02-2014
  • Case #: A155113
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Lagesen, J, for the Court; Duncan, P.J.; and Wollheim, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

In a permanency hearing, evidence relating to a child's original unexplained injury is not irrelevant as an attack on DHS's jurisdiction because it may be probative in the remedial steps parents must make toward reunification.

Parents appealed a permanency judgment changing the permanency plan for their daughter, “C,” from reunification to adoption. During a regular pediatric exam, the physician noticed a bruise on C’s right cheek. The physician ordered x-rays which showed signs of potential physical abuse. The Department of Human Services (DHS) placed C in foster care and parents attended classes, but DHS determined that parents were not making sufficient progress and requested that the permanency plan be modified from reunification to adoption. Parents offered expert testimony that the injury resulted from a disease rather than abuse, but the juvenile court excluded the testimony as irrelevant because it would act to relitigate jurisdiction. Parents argued that the juvenile court erred in excluding this evidence. The Court of Appeals agreed, holding that it was relevant to whether parents had made sufficient progress on remedying the circumstances that led to the injury. If the injury was caused by a disease, the steps necessary for reunification would have been different than if it had resulted from abuse. Additionally, because there was no finding as to the cause of the injury, the evidence was not a collateral attack on any finding relating to jurisdiction. Reversed and remanded.

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