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Libby v. Roy

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

December 19, 2017

JEFFREY LIBBY, Plaintiff
v.
CHRISTIAN ROY and THE ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PORTLAND, Defendants

          Attorney for Plaintiff: Verne Paradie, Esq. Paradie Seasonwein & Rabasco

          Attorney for Defendant, Christian Roy: Russell Pierce, Esq. Norman Hanson & Detroy

          Attorney for Defendant, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland: Gerald Petruccelli, Esq. Petruccelli Martin & Haddow

          ORDER AND JUDGMENT

          A. M. HORTON, JUSTICE

         Before the court are the Motions for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Christian Roy and Defendant The Roman Catholic Bishop of Portland ("the Diocese"), together with Plaintiff Jeffrey Libby's opposition to both Motions, and the Defendants' reply memoranda. Oral argument was held November 29, 2017, at which time the court took the Motions under advisement.

         Based on the entire record, Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment are granted, for the reasons set forth below.

         Factual Background

         Plaintiff Jeffrey Libby's date of birth is February 20, 1963 (Diocese S.M.F. ¶ l.) In 1980, Libby moved from Florida to Winslow, Maine and began attending high school while residing with his grandparents. (Diocese S.M.F. ¶¶ 9-11.) In 1986, Libby was convicted of the murder of his grandfather and began serving a 60-year sentence at the Maine State Prison. (Diocese S.M.F. ¶ 84.)

         The Diocese is the corporation sole that owns and administers the Roman Catholic churches and facilities in Maine, and employs and supervises the priests who serve within the Diocese.

         In 1979, Defendant Christian Roy began working as a priest in the Diocese, assigned as associate pastor for St. Ignatius' Parish in Sanford, Maine. (Roy S.M.F. ¶ 1.) In June of 1981, Roy was reassigned to Holy Family Parish in Lewiston, Maine. (Roy S.M.F. ¶ 8.)

         Libby alleges that he was subjected to sexual abuse by Roy numerous times in different locations, beginning in 1979 or 1980, while he was a minor, and continuing through 1982, after he had turned 18 years of age. See Libby Deposition at 83-85, 95-101.

         In June of 1986, Roy was reassigned as pastor to St. Bernard's Parish in Rockland, Maine. (Roy S.M.F. ¶ 9.) While working at St. Bernard's Parish, Roy also served as a part-time chaplain working 12 hours per week at the Maine State Prison. (Roy S.M.F. ¶ 10-11.) Roy continued serving as a part-time prison chaplain until 1991. (Roy S.M.F. ¶ 14.) The Maine State Prison provided Roy with an office and all items necessary for religious services. (Roy S.M.F. ¶ 28.)

         During his tenure as prison chaplain, Roy was paid bi-weekly by the State of Maine through direct payroll deposits to his bank account. (Roy S.M.F. ¶ 12-13.) The Diocese did not compensate priests for serving as chaplains in State institutions. (Diocese S.M.F. ¶ 10-11.) As a prison chaplain, Roy participated as a State employee in the Maine Public Employee Retirement System. (See Roy S.M.F. ¶ 15.)

         Libby alleges that, between 1987 and 1991, while Roy was working as a prison chaplain, Roy subjected him to numerous instances of sexual touching at the State prison, causing significant emotional distress. Libby Deposition at 136-38.

         Procedural History

         On September 15, 2016, Libby filed a complaint against Defendants Christian Roy and the Diocese. (Compl. at 1.) In his complaint, Libby alleges that Roy sexually abused him numerous times between 1979 and 1982. (Compl. ¶ 59.) Libby also alleges that Roy continued to inflict emotional distress on him between 1987 and 1991, while Libby was incarcerated at the Maine State Prison. (Compl. ¶¶ 47-48.) He alleges that the Diocese is liable for Roy's actions before and during Libby's imprisonment, based on respondeat superior and other theories.

         On July 3, 2017, this court granted in part Defendant Roy's motion for judgment on the pleadings. Libby v. Roy, No. PORSC-CV-16-357, 2017 Me. Super. LEXIS 135 (July 3, 2017). Based upon the statute of limitations applicable at the time of the alleged abuse, this court entered judgment in favor of Roy as to all claims accruing before Libby's imprisonment. Id. at 6. However, the court denied Roy's motion with respect to Libby's claims against Roy arising out of Roy's service as a chaplain at the Maine State Prison.

         Thereafter, the Diocese filed its Motion for Summary Judgment on all of Libby's claims against it, and Roy filed his Motion for Summary Judgment on the remaining claims against him.

         Standard of Review

         "The function of a summary judgment is to permit a court, prior to trial, to determine whether there exists a triable issue of fact or whether the question[V] before the court [are] solely... of law." Bouchard v. American Orthodontics, 661 A.2d 1143, 44 (Me. 1995).

         Questions of fact must be viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party-Plaintiff in this case. However, "summary judgment is appropriate when the portions of the record referenced in the statements of material fact disclose no genuine issues of material fact and reveal that one party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Currie v. Indus. Sec, Inc., 2007 ME 12, ¶ 11, 915 A.2d 400. "A material fact is one that can affect the outcome of the case, and a genuine issue exists when there is sufficient evidence for a fact finder to choose between competing versions of the fact." Lougee Conservancy v. City-Mortgage, Inc., 2012 ME 103, ¶ 11, 48 A.3d 774 (quotation omitted).

         Analysis

         1. Plaintiff's Prison-Based Claims against Defendant Christian Roy

         Defendant Roy argues that while serving in his capacity as prison chaplain he was an employee of the State, and that Libby's claims relating to the 1987-91 period are governed by the Maine Tort Claims Act (MTCA). See 14 M.RS. §§ 8101-8118 (2016). Pursuant to the MTCA, claims against an employee of a governmental entity are barred unless a notice of claim is given within 180 days of the accrual of the cause of action, and an action is filed within two years of accrual. See id. § 8107 (180-day notice requirement), § 8110 (two-year limitations period). Roy argues that, because Plaintiff never provided the 180-day notice required by the MTCA nor filed suit within the applicable two-year statute of limitations, his claims are time-barred.

         Plaintiff Libby does not dispute Roy's contention that he has not met the MTCA notice and filing deadlines. He also does not contend that the MTCA deadlines are tolled by virtue of his imprisonment.[1] Rather, Libby contends that Roy was an independent contractor for the State rather than a State employee. Because the MTCA does not apply to torts committed by independent contractors, see id. § 8102, Libby argues that his claims against Roy are not subject to the MTCA notice and limitations provisions.

         The MTCA defines the term "employee" in broad terms, as "a person acting on behalf of a governmental entity in any official capacity, whether temporarily or permanently, and whether with or without compensation from local, state or federal funds . . . ." Id. ยง 8102(1). However, the MTCA specifically ...


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