Tort Law

Editor:
Keith A. Cutler, Esquire

A claim for intentional failure to supervise clergy requires a showing that the alleged abuse occurred on premises owned or controlled by the church, or upon premises which the clergyperson is privileged to enter only as a servant of the church.   John Doe AP v. Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis, et al., No. 94720 (Mo. App. E.D., July 5, 2011), Dowd, J.

In 2002, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant Archdiocese for alleged sexual abuse by a priest occurring when Plaintiff was a teenaged parishioner in the early 1970s.  The alleged abuse occurred at a clubhouse owned by the priest.  Defendant Archdiocese filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff could not prove that the alleged acts occurred on premises owned or controlled by the Archdiocese.  The trial court granted summary judgment, and Plaintiff appealed.

Held
: Affirmed.   In Gibson v. Brewer, 952 S.W.2d 239 (Mo. banc 1997), the Missouri Supreme Court held that a cause of action for intentional failure to supervise clergy requires, inter alia, that the requirements of Section 317 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts be satisfied.  Section 317 of the Restatement requires that the servant, at the time the wrongful acts are committed, be on premises possessed by the master, or upon premises which the servant is privileged to enter only as a servant of the master.  Here, the alleged abuse occurred at the priest's own clubhouse, not on premises owned or controlled by the Archdiocese.  Therefore, the elements of intentional failure to supervise clergy were not met.  Plaintiff argued that certain acts of "seduction and grooming" took place on church property, which ultimately led to the acts which occurred at the priest's clubhouse, and that said prefatory acts are inseparable from the actual acts of abuse.  However, the court of appeals stated that there is no legal authority that equates "grooming" with actual sexual abuse.  The judgment of the trial court was, therefore, affirmed.



The Missouri Bar Courts Bulletin, 11-Aug

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