Wednesday, April 13, 2011

abuse - expungement - presumption

B.B. (now B.L.) v. DPW - Cmwlth. Court, April 13, 2011

The presumption in 23 Pa.C.S. 6381(d) -- that the "parent or other person" responsible for a child’s welfare was the person who the child abuse, and only the abuse itself had to be established in the case of an indicated child abuse by prima facie evidence -- cannot be applied where more than one individual was entrusted with a child’s care during the period in which medical evidence shows the injuries were inflicted.

On its own, the language of Section 6381(d) resolves the case. In sec. 6381(d), the General Assembly in setting forth the presumption refers only to the “parent or other person” responsible for the welfare of the child. 23 Pa.C.S. §6381(d). The clear use of the singular tense therein cannot be read as an accident, and cannot therefore be read to apply to any situation in which the presumption is sought to be applied to more than one “parent or person.”

Accordingly, we hold that the only reasonable statutory construction of Section 6381(d) leads to the sole conclusion that it is applicable only to one caregiver, absent some additional evidence that would serve to eliminate from consideration all but one caregiver (or, additional evidence that would implicate more than one or all caregivers)