Lawsuit for Child's Death After Working In a Behavior-Modification Program

Lemoine v. New Horizons Ranch & Center, Inc., 174 F.3d 629 (5th Cir. 1999) involves a 12-year-old boy who was under the managing conservatorship of the Texas Department of Protective Regulatory Services. While at New Horizons Ranch, he was forced to work as part of a behavior-modification program that involved moving 40-pound rocks all day with temperatures reaching 103 degrees. Id. at 631. The boy had been prescribed a complex diet of anti-psychotic and psychotropic drugs whose side effects made him hypersensitive to light and less able to dissipate heat. Id. at 631. The boy died 32 days after being transferred to the New Horizons Ranch. Id. at 632. The boy's mother sued many individuals, from those who were at the scene on up to supervisory officials with positions similar to Scott's. 174 F.3d at 633. The defendants in Lemoine appealed the district court's denial of their motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. 174 F.3d at 633. The appellate court held that the conduct of state officials was merely negligent, at most. Id. at 635.