child abuse - expungement - founded report - collateral estoppel
C.J. v. DPW - Cmwlth. Court - October 24, 2008
An adjudication of dependency and finding of abuse under the Juvenile Act bars a request for expunction from a founded report of child abuse under the Child Protective Services Law, under the doctrine of collateral estoppel.
Our recent decision in K.R. v. DPW, 950 A.2d 1069 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2008), holding the Department may rely on findings made in a dependency proceeding to deny a request for expunction of a founded child abuse report, compels the same result here.
An administrative hearing on the expunction request is not permitted because the petitioner was given a full and fair hearing to defend against the allegations in the dependency proceedings. He cannot collaterally attack the trial court’s dependency and abuse findings. The Court’s determination in K.R. allows for application of res judicata in expunction proceedings where, as here, the findings of fact in dependency proceedings establish child abuse at the hands of a named perpetrator.
Collateral estoppel bars a subsequent lawsuit where (1) an issue decided in a prior action is identical to one presented in a later action; (2) the prior action resulted in a final judgment on the merits; (3) the party against whom collateral estoppel is asserted was a party to the prior action, or is in privity with a party to the prior action; and (4), the party against whom collateral estoppel is asserted had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the prior action.
The dispositive legal and factual issues were identical in both proceedings here, and the remaining criteria of collateral estoppel are similarly met.