L. Alvin Hunt, Attorney at Law, for claimant.
Robert D. Pollitt, Assistant Attorney General, for respondent.


Claimant Martha Thaxton and Charles Hancock are the parents of six
children. In late 1975
and 1976, claimant Martha Thaxton, Charles Hancock, and the children
were residing with Dora
Dunn, the children's grandmother. In December 1975, Charles Hancock left
the home. The
claimant also moved from the home, at that time, and left the children
temporarily in the custody
of their grandmother. On February 18, 1976, temporary custody of the
children was awarded
by Order of the Juvenile Court of Raleigh County to the Department of
Welfare now known as
the Department of Human Services, the respondent herein. Subsequently,
in October 1976,
Joseph Hancock, then 13 years old, was returned to Dora Dunn's home by
one of the
houseparents at the Beckley Child Care Center where he had been staying.
On November 4,
1976, an uncle of the child, Philip Dunn, shot and killed Joseph
Hancock. Philip Dunn resided
next door to Dora Dunn. Claimant alleges that respondent breached its
duty to safeguard her
son from foreseeable dangers and hazards to his health, safety, and
well-being. She also alleges
that the respondent breached its duty to Joseph Hancock by placing him
in the home of his
grandmother where he had been previously threatened and assaulted by
Philip Dunn. Claimant
seeks $20,000.00.

Joseph Hancock was placed at the Beckley Child Care Center from
February 18, 1976 to
October 1976. He was unable to adjust to the center and had
disagreements with the
houseparents. At one point, he had run away to the grandmother's home.
It was at Joseph's
request that he was returned to the home of Dora Dunn. Esther Motley,
Social Service Worker
II, attained assurance from Dora Dunn that she was willing to have
Joseph Hancock return to
her household before he was placed with her in October, 1976.

The claimant bases her allegation of negligence on a "Social Summary"
by Nancy Elkin, Social
Service Worker II, West Virginia Department of Welfare. In the
"Addendum", Nancy Elkin
noted that "On Sunday, February 1, an uncle ran the children off from
their home in their
barefeet... ." Claimant alleges that this report indicates that
respondent had notice that Philip
Dunn had violent tendencies. although the claimant had knowledge of
threats made by Philip
Dunn to her children, she never informed the West Virginia Department of

To make an award in this case, the Court would obliged to conclude that
it has been shown by
a preponderance of the evidence that the respondent was guilty of
negligence which proximately
caused the death of Joseph Hancock. It is urged that the Court should
reach that conclusion
solely upon the evidence of the "Social Summary." The Court cannot
agree. There was no proof
submitted to the Court that respondent West Virginia Department of
Welfare was aware, or that
in the exercise of ordinary care should have been aware, that by placing
Joseph Hancock in the
home of Mrs. Dunn, it was placing him in a dangerous situation.
Therefore, there wa no breach
of duty and no resulting negligence on the part of the respondent.

Claim disallowed.