Thursday, July 09, 2015

Negligent Supervision Claim Against Diocese By Sex-Abuse Victim Can Proceed

In John Doe 200 v. Diocese of Raleigh, (NC App., July 7, 2015), a North Carolina appellate court held that the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine does not require dismissal of a sex-abuse victim's negligent supervision claims against the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh. The court held:
Were we to adopt the Diocese Defendants’ argument ..., then the First Amendment would, as a practical matter, serve as a complete shield to tort liability for religious organizations in the sexual abuse context except in those cases in which the plaintiff specifically alleged prior sexual assaults by the cleric at issue. We do not believe the First Amendment requires such a result.... Neutral principles of law allow a civil court to adjudicate Plaintiff’s claim that the Diocese Defendants knew or should have known of the danger posed by Sepulveda [a priest] to Plaintiff because of his sexual attraction to minors.
The court however reached a different conclusion on plaintiff's claim that the Diocese should have required the offending priest to undergo STD testing and should have provided the results to plaintiff:
This claim seeks to impose liability based on the Diocese Defendants’ alleged failure to exercise their authority over a priest stemming from an oath of obedience taken by him pursuant to the church’s canon law. As such, this claim directly “challenges church actions involving religious doctrine and practice” and cannot be adjudicated without entangling a secular court in ecclesiastical matters.