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May 6, 2016

HSLDA: Parental Rights Violation Merits Full Trial

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In June 2010, hospital doctors and social worker decided to remove Scott and Jodi Ferris’s newborn daughter Annie* from her parents’ custody.

Darren Jones DARREN JONES
Litigation attorney

Annie was born prematurely at Hershey Medical Center, and Mr. and Mrs. Ferris were concerned about the treatment the hospital staff was demanding for their daughter. The parents’ questions led to a visit from social worker Angelica Lopez-Heagy and the eventual removal of Annie into state custody. The very next day, a judge ordered the baby to be returned to her parents.

In March 2012, HSLDA filed a complaint in federal court against the doctors and social worker for violating Mr. and Mrs. Ferris’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The defendants asked the court to dismiss the case, but in December 2012 the judge ruled that the case could proceed. Since that time, both sides have been gathering information and taking testimony from witnesses in preparation for a trial. HSLDA litigation attorney Darren Jones recently took sworn testimony from the doctors’ expert witness in February.

The defendants have now filed summary judgment motions with the court. A summary judgment motion asks the court to make a ruling on the case, based on just the facts, without going to trial. HSLDA submitted a brief in opposition, pointing out that the timeline the defendants relied on was not backed by other testimony. We also argued that although the defendants downplayed their role in seizing Annie, the social worker and doctors were clearly involved.

The parental rights of Mr. and Mrs. Ferris were violated the day they lost custody of Annie. HSLDA hopes this lawsuit will bring justice to the Ferris family and lead to more government officials protecting parental rights rather than trampling them.

* Name changed to protect the child’s identity.