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Name: In re Nicole H.
Case #: C065981
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 11/30/2011

Juvenile court must appoint separate guardian ad litem to oversee minor’s potential tort claim against the county. The 13-year-old minor was made a dependent of the juvenile court in March, 2010. An attorney was appointed as her CAPTA guardian ad litem (GAL) and counsel. Shortly thereafter, minor’s counsel requested an order appointing a GAL to handle a tort claim for the minor, who had been raped by another minor at her foster home. The juvenile court denied the request. The minor appealed, arguing that the juvenile court erred by failing to appoint a GAL or CASA for the specific purpose of protecting her interests as to the tort action. The appellate court agreed and reversed. When a dependent minor has a potential tort claim against the county, the juvenile court must appointed a separate GAL to act on behalf of the minor and protect the minor’s interest prior to initiation of civil proceedings. If the GAL finds it appropriate, the court must also appoint counsel to serve on a pro bono or contingency basis to investigate and initiate the tort action. The appointment must be done expeditiously so as not to prejudice the minor’s claim.