Return to Forensic Home Page || Return to Table of Contents

Landmark Case

Case Name: Joshua DeSHANEY (a minor)
v. WINNEBAGO CO. Dept of Social Services (DSS)

Date, Location, Cite: 1989 WI
109 S.Ct... 998
US SUPREME COURT

Joshua was beaten many times by his father. DSS knew about it, did little for 2 yrs, At age 4 Joshua was beaten so badly he was rendered mentally defective for life. Mom sued, said DSS owed a duty to protect her son.

Court said that duty was to persons held (prisoners, mentally ill) but NOT to persons at liberty. State does not have to ensure freedom from "private violence," only attempt to help.

This seems to let DSS not do the job for which it is created, but some have argued that this case should have been filed in a different manner (state/ federal).