Sunday, August 04, 2013

Negligence Claim Against Diocese Over Rape by Deacon May Proceed

In Doe v. Corporation of the Catholic Bishop of Yakima, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 109006 (ED WA, July 30, 2013), a Washington federal district court denied defendants' motion for summary judgment in a suit alleging negligence by the Catholic diocese, the bishop and the parish after a deacon raped a 17-year old male parishioner. The court said in part:
the Free Exercise Clause does not bar a negligence claim against Defendants for hiring Ramirez and placing him in a position of trust and authority from which he was able to sexually abuse Plaintiff....
It would be irrational to require a child sexual abuse victim, who seeks to bring a negligence claim against a church, to prove that the church had actual knowledge of the risk posed by its abuser employee. In effect, it would create a disincentive for a church to investigate prospective employees before placing them in positions of trust and authority over children. Instead, churches would be motivated to engage in "ostrich" behavior to avoid confronting – and thus being forced to act upon – potential warning signs about such  employees. Protecting children is a paramount policy consideration ... and it is ill-served if those trusted with such responsibility can blithely ignore red flags about their employees and subsequently avoid liability for the ensuing harm.

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