Town renews effort to dismiss sexual abuse lawsuit
The Town of Wilton and Wilton Board of Education filed a motion Nov. 28 for Stamford Superior Court to reconsider its Nov. 9 decision to deny their motion for summary judgment of a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by a school district employee. The suit was brought by the family of a child, known as Girl Doe, claiming she was molested by former paraprofessional Eric Von Kohorn while she was a preschool student at Miller-Driscoll School.
The defendants cited two reasons for their motion for reconsideration — that the court “improperly construed the allegations of the complaint” and “misinterpreted” section 17a-101b(d) of Connecticut General Statutes.
Regarding the allegations, the plaintiffs allege Von Kohorn intentionally sexually assaulted Girl Doe and that the defendants were “negligent in failing to properly supervise Von Kohorn.”
“The court improperly focused on the issue of whether Von Kohorn was violating a mandatory duty when he intentionally sexually assaulted Girl Doe instead of focusing on whether the duty to supervise Von Kohorn was discretionary or ministerial,” according to documents filed by the town’s attorney, Thomas R. Gerarde.
State law “immunizes public entities from liability for an employee’s intentional acts,” the documents say. In addition, a recent state Supreme Court decision makes clear “that while the specific employee who violates a ministerial duty cannot claim the benefit of governmental immunity, the supervisors of that employee can claim governmental immunity as that supervision is discretionary.”
The complaint also seeks compensation for the girl’s parents who it says suffered emotional injury in part from receiving inaccurate and misleading information from preschool director Dr. Fred Rapczynski regarding reports and investigations into the incident that occurred after an initial report to the Department of Children and Families.
Specifically, Girl Doe’s parents claimed the basis for infliction of their emotional distress was that they weren’t told of “the substance of the second report” … that Von Kohorn had allegedly changed his story about taking their daughter into the bathroom.
Gerarde argues that state law only requires the parents of a public school student to be notified that a report has been made to the Department of Children and Families. The statute does not indicate all supplemental reports must also be the subject of parental notification.
The defendants also noted that the statutory mandate is “only that the fact that a report was made must be shared with the parents” — ”there is no mandate that any amount of detail be shared” with them.
The sharing of any detail with the parents would therefore be “left to the discretion of the school authority,” the motion states, and thus governmental immunity bars the plaintiffs’ claims.