Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Wheeler v. Northeast Province of Society of Jesus

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

August 12, 2016

BENJAMIN WHEELER, Plaintiff,
v.
NORTHEAST PROVINCE OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS, et al, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Thomas D. Warren, Justice

         Before the court is a motion to dismiss plaintiff Benjamin Wheeler's complaint as against defendant Cheverus High School.

         Wheeler's complaint names four defendants: the Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus, Reverend James Talbot, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Portland, and Cheverus High School. The centerpiece of the complaint is Wheeler's allegation that he was sexually abused on several occasions by Rev. Talbot at St. Jude's Church in Freeport in early 1998 when Wheeler was nine years old. Complaint ¶¶ 13-14.

         Cheverus is named as a defendant based on allegations that at the time of the abuse Rev. Talbot was serving on the faculty at Cheverus even though Stephen Dauber, identified as the president or principal of Cheverus, was aware that Talbot had a propensity to sexually abuse minor boys. Complaint ¶ 10. Wheeler alleges that Talbot was suspected of sexually abusing students at Talbot's previous teaching job at Boston College High School and that Dauber, aware of the mounting suspicions against Talbot at BC High, had encouraged Talbot to relocate to Cheverus. Id.

         Wheeler alleges that while on the faculty of Cheverus and while under the authority, direction, and supervision of Cheverus as well as that of the Bishop of Portland and the Jesuits, Rev. Talbot was allowed by the Bishop to conduct parish activities at St. Jude's in Freeport, where the sexual abuse allegedly occurred. Complaint ¶¶ 11-12, 15. He further alleges that the Jesuits, the Bishop, and Cheverus were aware of the danger that Rev. Talbot presented to minor boys and that Talbot "used his position" with Cheverus, the Bishop, and the Jesuits to obtain the trust of Wheeler and Wheeler's parents in order to enable the alleged abuse. Complaint ¶¶ 17-19.

         In count I of the complaint Wheeler asserts a claim against all defendants for sexual abuse. In count II he asserts a claim against all defendants for intentional infliction of emotional abuse (IIED). In count III he asserts a claim against all defendants for negligent infliction of emotional abuse (NIED). Count IV is a claim against all defendants for fraud. Count V is a claim for punitive damages. Count VI is a claim against all defendants for civil conspiracy. Count VII alleges a claim - nominally against all defendants but presumably excluding Talbot -for respondeat superior.

         For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the material allegations of the complaint must be taken as admitted. Ramsey v. Baxter Title Co., 2012 ME 113 ¶ 2, 54 A.3d 710. The complaint must be read in the light most favorable to the plaintiff to determine if it sets forth elements of a cause of action or alleges facts that would entitle plaintiff to relief pursuant to some legal theory. Bisson v. Hannaford Bros. Co., Inc., 2006 ME 131 ¶ 2, 909 A.2d 1010. Dismissal is appropriate only when it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff is not entitled to relief under any set of facts that he might prove in support of his claim. Moody v. State Liquor & Lottery Commission, 2004 ME 20 ¶ 7, 843 A.2d 43. However, a plaintiff may not proceed if the complaint fails to allege essential elements of the cause of action. See Potter, Prescott, Jamieson & Nelson P.A. v. Campbell, 1998 ME 70 ¶¶ 6-7, 708 A.2d 283.

         The court will consider each of the causes of action asserted in the complaint as they apply to Chevems with the exception of count V (punitive damages). That is not a separate claim but merely a kind of damages that may be recoverable if the complaint otherwise states a claim, if plaintiff prevails at trial, and if the specific prerequisites for punitive damages are proven by clear and convincing evidence.

         In considering the claims against Cheverus, the court will assume throughout the truth of Wheeler's allegations that Rev. Talbot sexually abused Wheeler at St. Jude's Church when Wheeler was nine years old.

         Count I - Sexual Abuse

         Although count I of the complaint is captioned as a claim for "sexual abuse, " counsel has clarified that count I constitutes a common law claim for assault and battery. Plaintiffs Opposition to Motion to Dismiss dated April 11, 2016 at 5. Counsel for plaintiff also argues that the liability of Cheverus on Count I is premised on respondeat superior and on civil conspiracy. Id. Since civil conspiracy is separately pleaded in count VI, and respondeat superior is separately pleaded in count VII, the court will address those claims below.

         In opposing the motion to dismiss, plaintiff also argues at some length that the complaint states a claim for negligently creating a risk of harm to third persons under Restatement (Second) Torts § 302B and for negligent supervision under Restatement (Second) Torts §§315 and 317. Plaintiffs Opposition to Motion to Dismiss dated April 11, 2016 at 7-15. Neither of those theories is expressly mentioned in the complaint, [1] but the court will address them to the extent that the factual allegations can be construed to state those claims.

         Restatement (Second) Torts § 302B

         Restatement (Second) Torts § 302B, titled "Risk of Intentional or Criminal ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.