by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A woman charged with child abuse after leaving her children in a parked car for a couple of minutes can proceed with her lawsuit against the city of Charlotte and the officer who charged her. A unanimous N.C. Appeals Court panel issued that ruling today.
Judge Richard Dietz details the circumstances surrounding the charges:
Plaintiff Jane Doe got lost while driving her children to a birthday party. She stopped in a parking lot, hopped out of her car, and asked someone nearby for directions. Witnesses said Doe was gone from her car somewhere between one and two minutes.
During that time, Captain G.M. Smith, a law enforcement officer, arrived. According to Doe’s evidence, Captain Smith was inexplicably angry and hostile towards Doe for leaving her children in an unattended car. Captain Smith ignored other officers who said Doe had done nothing wrong and ultimately charged Doe with misdemeanor child abuse.
Charges were dropped against the mother, who then filed suit. A trial court dismissed multiple complaints. Despite procedural issues with the appeal, Dietz and his colleagues agreed to allow the case to move forward.
Plaintiffs’ evidence, viewed in their favor, is sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact on the issue of malice. We acknowledge that Defendants have their own evidence indicating that Captain Smith acted properly and without malice. But this Court cannot choose between that competing evidence—a jury must do that. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment and remand for further proceedings.