CANRA Clarified

Today in B.H. v. County of San Bernardino (Nov. 30, 2015, S213066) the California Supreme Court clarified the parameters of potential liability if law enforcement fails to "cross-report" allegations of possible child abuse to the relevant child welfare agency, relying on both the statutory language and legislative history of the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA). The Court differentiated between law enforcement's reporting of the receipt of initial abuse allegations and its subsequent investigation of those investigations, finding a mandatory duty to cross-report the former but not the latter. Depending on the lens through which you view it, B.H. could either "open the floodgates" to additional lawsuits against law enforcement or provided needed safeguards to children in potentially abusive situations. Given the statutory language and the purpose behind the Legislature's cross-reporting mandate, I side with the latter and child protection. The Court also tucked a procedural warning to appellate practitioners in footnote 3. Responding to the defendant's claim the plaintiff had forfeited a portion of the claim, the Court noted the defense had not raised the forfeiture argument in its summary judgment motion, nor had it filed an answer to the petition for review, "requesting that we limit the issues by excluding the one related to section 1166, subdivision (k)." So, the lesson here is respondents can forfeit arguments, too, not just appellants. Be alert to procedural arguments, no matter which side you represent.