A foster child in the care of the South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS) was sexually assaulted by a state-contracted cab driver on her way to school in Irmo, South Carolina, according to a recently filed lawsuit.
A guardian for “Jane Doe” filed the suit against Checker Yellow Cab Company Inc., cab driver Alfonso Charles Davis, SCDSS, and Palmetto Place Children’s Shelter (PPCS) in the Richland County court of common pleas on May 1, 2020.
This is at least the third lawsuit this year in which plaintiffs are suing SCDSS for failing to protect a child from sexual assault.
In May 2018, Jane Doe was in the custody of SCDSS while living at PPCS in Columbia, South Carolina. Checker Yellow Cab Company was contracted through the state to transport foster children to and from school, according to the lawsuit.
On May 7, 2018, Checker Yellow Cab Company driver Alfonso Davis picked up Jane Doe and was supposed to take her to school in Irmo. Instead of bringing her straight to school, however, “he drove her around Broad River Road and continually reset the meter,” the lawsuit said.
While driving around Broad River Road, Davis told Jane Doe he “had a crush on her” and that she “turns him on,” according to the lawsuit.
He asked her several times if she had “ever done sexual activities before,” the lawsuit stated.
Davis then pulled into the Chuck E. Cheese parking lot on Burning Tree Drive in Columbia, parked the cab, and sexually assaulted Jane Doe “while suggesting they ‘get a room,'” according to the lawsuit.
The Chuck E. Cheese is located across the street from a Motel 6.
Jane Doe was eventually taken to school more than an hour late – at which point she promptly reported the incident to authorities, the lawsuit said.
The Richland County sheriff’s department was called to investigate the allegations.
“Davis was arrested and charged with kidnapping/ abduction and forcible fondling,” the lawsuit said.
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The lawsuit claims that SCDSS and/ or PPCS “failed to properly protect, safeguard, and ensure the safety of (Jane Doe) while under their supervision, protection, control and/or custody,” the lawsuit said.
“As a result of the defendants negligent and or grossly negligent acts, (Jane Doe) suffered and still suffers extensive damages, including severe emotional distress, physical harm, loss of enjoyment of life, and will require long-term and lifetime psychiatric and psychological treatment.”
Davis is being sued for assault and battery, negligence, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“(Davis’) behavior was rude, vulgar, and/ or inappropriate,” the lawsuit said. “…and (his) actions rose to a level of extreme outrage and exceeding all possible bounds of decency and was atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit claims SCDSS and Palmetto Place Children’s Shelter were negligent in failing to protect Jane Doe and “failing to draft and or institute proper policies and procedures necessary to ensure that minors under their supervision, protection, control, and or custody are safe and protected from physical abuse.”
SCDSS was negligent in failing to conduct background checks on third-party contractors hired to transport children in their custody, the lawsuit said and negligent in failing to keep sufficient records on their employees and subcontractors to prevent such incidents from occuring.
Georgetown, S.C. attorney Andrew Kunz is representing the foster child in the lawsuit.
“SCDSS has been an unmitigated disaster for years on multiple fronts, with one of its former directors losing her job in the aftermath of the sad and shocking tale of Robert Guinyard, Jr. – a four-year-old boy who was placed into an abusive home by SCDSS despite repeated warnings about his safety,” our founding editor Will Folks wrote in 2018.
While SCDSS vowed to renovate itself in 2019 with new leadership, the “scandal-ravaged” agency is still facing multiple legal issues – from the past and present.
In March, the agency was sued after an 11-year-old boy was allegedly sexually abused at a Christian shelter. The lawsuit stated that no one at SCDSS or Miracle Hill (a state-contracted Christian shelter) “did anything to protect (the child) from being further abused.”
“They simply told (the child) that they would ‘look into it,’” the lawsuit said.
After the foster child told his social worker, the sexual assaults continued, according to the lawsuit.
Another federal lawsuit filed on behalf of three South Carolina children alleges they were unnecessarily forced to undergo the violating process of a sexual abuse exam by SCDSS and several other participants.
That lawsuit alleges that 13-year-old Jane Doe was subjected to a full vaginal exam where she was touched and photographed naked under the instruction of SCDSS caseworker Karen Burgess. Her 12-year-old brothers John Doe and Richard Roe were strip-searched and photographed naked as a part of Burgess’ investigation. Burgess was investigating physical abuse in the children’s home – not sexual abuse – which is why the lawsuit calls the searches unconstitutional.
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