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Brownville v. Indian Mountain School

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 29, 2017

William Brewster BROWNVILLE, Plaintiff,


          Janet Bond Arterton, U.S.D.J.

         Defendant Indian Mountain School ("IMS") moves [Doc. # 112] for summary judgment on all five counts of Plaintiff s complaint.[1] Plaintiff moves [Doc. # 111] to amend the Complaint to add an allegation that Indian Mountain School's Headmaster, Mr. Peter Carleton, was the alter ego of the school. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Plaintiffs Motion to amend the complaint as futile and grants Defendant's Motion for summary judgment in part. This case will proceed to trial on Counts 1, 2, and 3, with the Court reserving opinion on Count 4.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff William Brewster Brownville ("Plaintiff or "Mr. Brownville"), was enrolled as a boarding student at IMS, a private school in Connecticut, from 1983 to 1987, when he was 12-15 years old. (Def.'s D. Conn. Loc. Civ. R. 56a(1) Statement ("56a(1) Stmt") ¶¶ 1-2; Pl's D. Conn. Loc. Civ. R. 56a(2) Statement ("56a(2) Stmt.) ¶¶ 1-2.) Plaintiff claims that he was subject to numerous instances of sexual abuse during his time at school, both at the hands of a teacher named Christopher Simonds and at the hands of IMS's Headmaser, Peter Carleton. (Ex. G ("Brownville Tr.") to Mattei Aff. [Doc. # 84-1] at 122, 184-87.) Further facts established by the summary judgment record will be identified as necessary in the following analysis.

         II. Discussion

         IMS moves for summary judgment on all five Counts of Plaintiffs complaint. Summary judgment is appropriate where, "resolv[ing] all ambiguities and draw[ing] all permissible factual inferences in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought, " Holcomb v. Iona Coll., 521 F.3d 130, 137 (2d Cir. 2008), "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "A dispute regarding a material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Williams v. Utica Coll. of Syracuse Univ., 453 F.3d 112, 116 (2d Cir. 2006) (quotation marks omitted). "The substantive law governing the case will identify those facts that are material, and '[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.'" Bouboulis v. Transp. Workers Union of Am., 442 F.3d 55, 59 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). When considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court may consider depositions, documents, affidavits, interrogatory answers, and other exhibits in the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

         A. The Negligence and Recklessness Claims (Counts 1-3) Fall Within the 30-Year Statute of Limitations

         IMS moves for summary judgment on Plaintiffs first three counts-negligent supervision, recklessness, and negligent infliction of emotional distress-on statute of limitations grounds, claiming that these claims are time-barred under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-584, which applies to unintentional negligence and recklessness claims.[2] (Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. [Doc. # 113] at 5.) Plaintiff responds that in promulgating Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-577d, the Connecticut legislature extended the statute of limitations for any tort action-intentional or unintentional-where the injury is caused by sexual abuse of a minor, and that his claims are timely under this 30-year limitations period. (Opp'n [Doc. # 120] at 3.) Section 52-577d reads:

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 52-577, no action to recover damages for personal injury to a minor, including emotional distress, caused by sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or sexual assault may be brought by such person later than thirty years from the date such person attains the age of majority.

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-577d.

         As noted in the Court's Ruling on Defendant's Motion to Certify a Question [Doc. # 147], the holding in Doe v. Boy Scouts of America Corp. squarely addresses which statute of limitations applies. In Boy Scouts, the Connecticut Supreme Court held:

when the legislature enacted § 52-577d, it intended for the statute to apply to actions sounding in negligence and recklessness and to carve out such actions from the scope of § 52-584. Accordingly... § 52-577d applies not only to actions against the perpetrators of sexual abuse of minors, but also to actions against parties whose negligent acts or omissions legally caused the personal injuries suffered by the victims of such abuse.

323 Conn. 303, 340 (2016).

         Given the clarity of the holding in Boy Scouts and its clear application to the facts of this case, it is controlling. The thirty-year statute of limitations set forth in Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-577d is applicable and Plaintiffs negligent supervision, reckless supervision, and negligent infliction of emotional distress claims are timely.

         B. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (Fourth Count)

         In order to prevail on a claim for the intentional infliction of emotional distress ('TIED") in Connecticut, a plaintiff must establish four elements:

(1) that the actor intended to inflict emotional distress; or that he knew or should have known that emotional distress was a likely result of his conduct; (2) that the conduct was extreme and outrageous; (3) that the defendant's conduct was the cause of the plaintiffs distress and (4) that the emotional distress sustained by the plaintiff was severe.

Petyan v. Ellis, 200 Conn. 243, 253 (2006). "Liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress requires conduct exceeding all bounds usually tolerated by decent society, of a nature which is especially calculated to cause, and does cause, mental distress of a very serious kind." Ancona v. Manafort Bros., Inc., 56 Conn.App. 701, 712 (2000). "Conduct on the part of the defendant that is merely insulting or displays bad manners or results in hurt feelings is insufficient to form the basis for an action based upon intentional infliction of emotional distress." Carrol v. Allstate Insurance Co., 262 Conn. 433, 443 (2003).

         Defendant argues that summary judgment should be granted for three reasons: (1) nonfeasance alone cannot support an IIED claim because it is neither extreme nor outrageous as a matter of law and, even if it were, none of the school's acts or omissions rises to the level of extreme outrageousness to support the claim; (2) the acts of the employees fall outside the scope of their employment, and therefore cannot be attributed to the school, and (3) the headmaster cannot be treated as the "alter ego" of the school for purposes of establishing liability. (Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. at 15.)

         Plaintiff abandons any claim to liability on a theory of respondeat superior. (Original Opp'n [Doc. # 84] at 31.) Rather, he proceeds on two theories. First, Plaintiff claims that "Peter Carleton was the alter ego of IMS, and his sexual assaults and abuse are attributed to the school." (Opp'n at 31.) Second, he argues that IMS "utterly failed to act to prevent harm" (id. at 32), "affirmatively continued Simond's employment at the school for years" despite numerous red flags about his behavior (id. at 32-33), and that with respect to Mr. Carleton, "there is no reasonable explanation why Carleton's lascivious behavior did not result in his termination." These omissions and commissions, which ...

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