JOHN DOE v. THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA CORPORATION et al.,
Judicial District of Waterbury
Torts; Whether Defendant Had Duty to Protect Plaintiff From Sexual Assault; Whether § 52-577d Limitation Period on Actions for Damages to Minors Caused by Sexual Abuse Applies to Claims of Negligent or Reckless Conduct; Whether Verdict Excessive. The plaintiff brought this action against the Boy Scouts of America Corporation (Boy Scouts), alleging that it failed to ensure his safety and well-being when he was a minor in the mid-1970s and that he was sexually assaulted by another scout as a result. The scout responsible for the abuse was three years older than the plaintiff and served as the “patrol leader” of the plaintiff's scout group. The plaintiff claimed that the Boy Scouts knew that there were numerous incidents of older youth scout leaders sexually assaulting younger scouts and that it concealed that information to protect its public image rather than implementing basic policies to prevent further sexual molestations. He sought damages for negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, reckless misconduct and a violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA). The Boy Scouts moved for a directed verdict, arguing that the plaintiff could not prevail on his negligence claim because it had no duty to protect the plaintiff from the abuse. It claimed that it had no reason to know that the scout who abused the plaintiff had a propensity to engage in sexual misconduct, that its conduct did not create or increase a foreseeable risk of harm to the plaintiff, and that it did not have a special protective relationship with the plaintiff that gave rise to a duty of care. Moreover, it argued that the statute of limitations for negligence and reckless misconduct claims in General Statutes § 52-584 and the statute of limitations for CUTPA claims in General Statutes § 42-110g (f) had expired long before the plaintiff filed this action. It also asserted that the thirty year statute of limitations in General Statutes § 52-577d for actions for damages to minors caused by sexual abuse was inapplicable here because that statute applies only to claims brought against the actual abuser based on the abuser's intentional conduct. The Boy Scouts further argued that applying § 52-577d to the CUTPA claim would violate its due process rights because the time limitation for filing a statutory CUTPA claim expired before § 52-577d was adopted. The trial court denied the motion for a directed verdict, and a jury found in favor of the plaintiff, awarding him approximately $12 million in damages. The Boy Scouts appeal, arguing that it had no duty to protect the plaintiff from the abuser's intentional misconduct because it did nothing to increase the risk of harm to the plaintiff and because that harm was not reasonably foreseeable. The Boy Scouts also argue that the court improperly failed to instruct the jury that it could not be held liable for the abuser’s misconduct unless the plaintiff showed that it had notice of his propensity for misconduct, that its own conduct increased the risk of harm to the plaintiff, or that it had a special relationship with the plaintiff that gave rise to a duty of care. The Boy Scouts’ other claims are that there was no evidence establishing that it acted recklessly or caused the plaintiff's damages, that the limitation period in § 52-577d does not apply to causes of action for negligent or reckless conduct or to CUTPA claims, and that the verdict was excessive.