The Father Who Gave Kid Hard Lemonade At Tigers Game Can Sue


It was a mistake publicized around the world.

Christoper Ratte, a classical archeological professor at the University of Michigan,  gave his 7-year-old son a Mike's Hard Lemonade at a Tigers game on April 5, 2008, claiming he had no idea it contained alcohol. Before you know it, the son was placed in foster care over a weekend.

Now, more than five years later, we're likely to hear a lot more about it.

U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn ruled Tuesday in Detroit that the Ann Arbor family can sue Wayne County Family Court Judge Judy A. Hartsfield, who was responsible for putting the child in foster care.

The lawsuit  filed by Ratte and his wife, Claire Zimmerman, claims that Hartsfield failed to determine if the boy was in danger before taking him away. Instead, she had left blank forms with her signature, which let a probation officer fill them in after court hours and remove the child from parental custody without judicial review.

Judge Hartsfield lacks immunity from being sued because signing the papers was a nonjudicial action, Cohn ruled.

He noted that the "'source of injury' alleged in the plaintiff's first amended complaint is Hartsfield's practice of allowing removal of children form their homes without judicial review by providing what is in effect a pre-signed form order to nonjudical officers."

Cohn wrote:

 Hartsfield essentially signed pieces of paper that had no vitality until a third party – in this case a probation officer – filled in certain information on the paper. At the time the form of order was signed by Hartsfield, there were no parties before the court nor were there any active child custody proceedings. Her actions therefore could not have been 'judicial acts.'”

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