DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services (1989)

Key Facts– DeShaney was beaten and permanently injured by his father, and he now sues the Department of Social Services for failing to act on his behalf and thereby depriving him of liberty in violation of the Due Process Clause.

Issue– Does the Due Process Clause impose a possible duty on state actors to protect people’s life, liberty, and property?

Holding– No

Result– Suit dismissed

Reasoning– Due Process is nowhere implied to create positive duties for the states. Rather, it protects from state action encroaching in certain areas. Further, Social Services had no affirmative duty to help the child, since Wisconsin law established no such tortious liability.

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