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Rip Van Winkle Suit

October 9, 2011 permalink

Mother Rehab Amer was accused of killing a son who actually died of brittle bone disease. But Michigan seized three of her other children immediately and a fourth at birth. When a fifth baby was born, the parents fled to Canada for the birth and concealed the child's identity. Now eighteen years later, after the child has reached age of majority, they want to use the courts to get relief for their ordeal. But the state is claiming the eighteen-year delay leaves them immune.



Parents want OK to sue in custody case

Judge to say if state's removal of kids too dated for legal action

Detroit — A federal judge will decide whether a family whose children were taken by the former Michigan Department of Social Services 26 years ago waited too long to file a lawsuit against the state.

Rehab Amer was charged in 1985 with killing her 2-year-old son Samier after he fell in the bathtub of their Dearborn home, but it was later determined that the child's death was the result of brittle bone disease.

A jury acquitted Amer of negligent homicide, but state officials took her other three children from her home, claiming Amer and her husband, Ahmed, were unfit parents. A fourth child was taken a day after birth.

When Amer became pregnant with son Hussein in 1990, she moved to Canada for the May 1991 birth and pretended he was her nephew, fearing authorities would remove him from her home, too.

The Amers say they didn't want the state to also take custody of Hussein, so they waited until he turned 18 to file a lawsuit against the state, claiming social service workers removed their children because of prejudice against Muslims.

"Clearly they were afraid," said the family's attorney, Nabih Ayad. "The fled to another country to have Hussein, and told the world he was their nephew."

Ayad said the Amers waited to sue because they were afraid to go into court and lie about Hussein being their child. "They didn't want to commit perjury, but they also wanted to keep their child," he said.

Assistant Attorney General John Fedynsky said the fact that the Amers made their case public and fought it in probate court disproves their claim. "It's clear there was no fear," he said. "This family has been very public about fighting for their rights all along, and they weren't concerned (about committing perjury) when they went into probate court."

The statue of limitations for most of the suit's claims is three years, although federal Judge Paul Borman can apply equitable tolling— a legal principle allowing exceptions to a statute of limitations in certain instances — so the case can move forward.

"The court will take this under advisement and render a decision," Borman said. He gave no timetable.

Source: Detroit News