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Name: In re Ethan C.
Case #: S187587
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 07/05/2012

Criminal negligence is not required to adjudge minors dependents where father caused the death of another child through lack of ordinary care. Father’s two young children were adjudged dependents and removed under Welfare and Institutions Code section 300, subdivision (f). The findings were based on evidence that father transported a third child, aged 18 months, in an automobile without securing her in a child safety seat, and she was fatally injured when another vehicle collided with their car. The Court of Appeal affirmed, and the Supreme Court granted review to determine the level of neglect required for section 300(f), whether section 300(f) requires evidence and findings that the particular circumstances of the fatality demonstrates a current risk of harm to the surviving children, and what the meaning is of “caused” as used in that section. The Court affirmed the opinion of the Court of Appeal. Section 300(f) is not limited to criminal negligence, but allows the court to adjudge a child a dependent if it finds that the lack of ordinary care by the child’s parent caused another child’s death. It is also not required that the court find that circumstances surrounding the parent’s fatal negligence indicate a present risk of harm to the surviving children. Finally, the normal concepts of legal causation apply to section 300(f). Father’s failure to secure the minor in a child safety seat was a substantial contributing cause of her death in the traffic accident. Father breached his duty to guard against the precise and foreseeable risk which materialized, a young child’s death in a traffic collision.