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EDWIN B. LEE AND RITA M. LEE v. CHILD CARE SERVICE DELAWARE COUNTY INSTITUTION DISTRICT ET AL. (05/13/75)

decided: May 13, 1975.

EDWIN B. LEE AND RITA M. LEE, HIS WIFE ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, APPELLANTS,
v.
CHILD CARE SERVICE DELAWARE COUNTY INSTITUTION DISTRICT ET AL.



COUNSEL

Martin H. Aussenberg, David A. Scholl, Suzanne Noble, Delaware County Legal Assistance Assn. Inc., Chester, for appellants.

Stewart C. Crawford, Media, for appellee, Charlotte L. Hammell.

Ralph B. D'Iorio, Media, for appellee, Carolyn J. LaBrum.

Melvin G. Levy, Levy & Levy, L. J. Sinatra, Chester, for appellee, Child Care Service of Delaware County Institution Dist.

Mattew M. Strickler, Philadelphia, for appellee, Norma Sullivan.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Nix, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Manderino, J., joined.

Author: Roberts

[ 461 Pa. Page 644]

OPINION OF THE COURT

In this appeal, appellants, as representatives of all those similarly situated, challenge the use of "placement agreements" by the Child Care Service of the Delaware County Institution District. Under these agreements parents consent to the transfer of the custody of their children to the Service. Appellants contend that these agreements are without statutory authorization and that their use violates the due process clause of the federal constitution.

The action from which this appeal arises was filed in equity. The chancellor, concluding that appellants had failed to state a cause of action upon which relief could be granted, sustained appellees' preliminary objections and dismissed the class aspects of the action. We affirm.

According to their complaint, on August 28, 1972, appellants, Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Lee, entered into a "placement agreement" transferring custody of their son to the Child Care Service. About eight months later, the Lees wrote the Service requesting that their child be returned to their custody. When the Service refused to return the child, the Lees brought this action both as individuals and as class representatives.

As individuals, appellants claim that they were fraudulently induced to sign the agreement transferring custody.

[ 461 Pa. Page 645]

On this theory they seek to recover $10,000 compensatory and $20,000 punitive damages against the appellees: the Service, the caseworker who it is asserted induced them to sign the agreement, the director of the Service, the administrative assistant of the Service and two unknown, unnamed agents of the Service. They also seek to recover from appellees $2,500 compensatory and $5,000 punitive damages for the intentional infliction of mental distress and loss of consortium.

The Lees also assert that they are representatives of a class composed of all residents of Delaware County the custody of whose children has been or may in the future be transferred by parents to the Service pursuant to "placement agreements." On behalf of this class, the Lees request the rescission of the agreements transferring custody from the members of the class to the Service, $10,000 compensatory and $20,000 punitive damages, and preliminary ...


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