Imperial County Dept. etc. v. S.S.Annotate this Case
In November 2014, 21-month-old A.A. (Child) was detained and removed from the home and care of her mother, As.A. (Mother). While in the family home, Child had been allowed to play with lit matches, exposed to heavy marijuana smoke, and surrounded by a variety of drug paraphernalia and drugs in plain sight. Mother was arrested and temporarily incarcerated. Child's father, S.S. (Father), who lived separately, had a history of substance abuse and declined to take custody of Child. Mother and Father did not contest the juvenile court's jurisdiction, and Child was placed with foster parents, the C.'s. At the C.'s, Child was reportedly healthy, happy, and enjoying visits with Mother, who wanted to regain custody of Child. At a disposition hearing approximately one month later, the Imperial County Department of Social Services reported that Child had passed away the previous day. The Department informed the court that multiple investigations were ongoing regarding the circumstances of Child's death. The Department was conducting a separate investigation for the welfare of other children who had been living in the C.'s home. The police department was conducting a criminal investigation, and other governmental agencies were investigating the C.'s for foster care and day care licensing purposes. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review was whether a juvenile court could retain jurisdiction over a dependency case after the subject child has died, for the purpose of learning the child's cause of death and/or appointing a guardian ad litem to investigate potential tort claims for the child's estate. The juvenile court determined it must terminate its jurisdiction under the circumstances. The Court of Appeal agreed and affirmed.