child abuse - cause of abuse - presumption
In re: D.T. - Commonwealth Court - May 9, 2006
Request to expunge indicated report of child abuse denied.
Appellant was the paramour of the mother of an 18 month-old child who suffered 2nd degree burns on both feet, which a doctor testified were "typical immersion scald burns." The evidence showed that at the time of his injury, the child was either in the custody of his mother or her paramour, but there was no "independent substantial competent evidence" that appellant was the person that caused the burns."
The court approved DPW's reliance on 23 Pa. C.S. 6381(d) [prima facie evidence of abuse], which provides that "[e]vidence that a child has suffered child abuse of such a nature as would ordinarily not be sustained or exist except by reason of the acts or omissions of the parent or other person responsible for the welfare of the child shall be prima facie evidence of child abuse by the parents or other person responsible for the welfare of the child."
Citing the decision of In the Interest of J.R.W., 631 A.2d 1019 (Pa. Super. 1993), the court held that while the "existence of child abuse" had to be proven by clear and convincing evidence, proof of "the identity of the perpetrator of that abuse....need only be established by prima facie evidence that the abuse normally would not have occurred except by reason of acts or omissions of the caretakers...." (emphasis in original)
The "presumption can be rebutted, like other statutory presumptions, with countervailing competent, substantial evidence," which did not exist here. Appellant's testimony was found not credible, in part because he lied about not having a prior criminal record.