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Parker v. Dall-Leighton

United States District Court, D. Maine

June 29, 2018

BRIDGET PARKER, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSH DALL-LEIGHTON, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT RENEE SHANKS'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS FOR NEGLIGENCE AND NEGLIGENT INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS

          George Z. Singal United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Defendant Renee Shanks's Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's Claims of Negligence and Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (ECF No. 87). For the following reasons, the Motion is GRANTED.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         For purposes of Defendant's Motion, the parties have stipulated to the following facts (see Stipulation of Uncontested Facts (ECF No. 93)):

         Plaintiff Bridget Parker[1] was an inmate of the Maine Department of Corrections from approximately January 2012 through July 19, 2016. Parker was transferred to the Southern Maine Re-entry Center in Alfred, Maine, in September 2014. While Parker was an inmate at the Re-entry Center, Defendants Joshua Dall-Leighton and Renee Shanks were both corrections officers at the facility. Parker claims that Dall-Leighton sexually assaulted her on five different occasions during her time at the Re-entry Center, with the first occasion occurring on December 10, 2015, and the last on February 3, 2016. Parker claims that she first told Shanks about the sexual contact between her and Dall-Leighton in a conversation towards the end of December 2015, and discussed the ensuing sexual incidents with Shanks. Parker consumed alcohol on March 31, 2016, was reported by Shanks, and was thereafter sent from the Re-entry Center to the Windham Correctional Center. While at Windham, Parker disclosed to another inmate that she had been sexually assaulted and this other inmate reported it to the authorities. On May 26, 2016, Parker spoke with Department of Corrections Investigator David Verrier about the sexual incidents with Dall-Leighton.

         On or about June 22, 2016, Parker sent several notices of claim regarding the sexual assaults to Dall-Leighton, several high-ranking officials with the Department of Corrections, and the Maine Attorney General. Parker also sent notices of claim to a “John Doe” and a “Jane Doe.” The “Jane Doe” notice is dated June 22, 2016, and addressed to “Jane Doe, Employee of Maine Department of Corrections” at “Maine Correctional Center, 17 Mallison Falls Road, Windham, Maine 04062.” (ECF No. 93-6, PageID # 603).[2] In the section of the notice titled “Basis of Claim, ” Parker described her sexual contact with Dall-Leighton and stated, “On information and belief, at least one other employee of the Department of Corrections knew that . . . Dall-Leighton was having an illegal sexual relationship with the Claimant.” (Id.) A footnote to the notice states:

Due to lack of secure attorney-client communications, as well as the fact that . . . Parker previously wrote confidential letters to [her attorney], which were confiscated by prison staff, prior to being mailed out, which . . . Parker believes were opened and read, she does not feel confident in fully communicating with [her attorney] via mail or phone. Therefore, some essential names have not been able to be provided, but this notice will be amended appropriately when the additional information has been obtained.

(Id.) The “at least one other employee” language and the footnote are included in all of the notices of claim.

         Parker did not allege to authorities with the Department of Corrections that she had told Shanks about the sexual incidents until she was released from custody on or about July 19, 2016.[3]Parker claims she did not name Shanks until she was released from custody because “(a)fter the investigation with Dall[-Leighton] and the emotional turmoil that caused, along with the fact that [Shanks] is a really well-liked [corrections officer] at the re-entry center, (Parker) was just fearful of what the other guards and/or inmates might do if (Parker) caused more of . . . an uproar in the facility. (Parker) wanted to let them know, but [she] was just scared to do it.” (Stipulation of Uncontested Facts ¶ 14, PageID # 568.) None of the notices of claim were ever amended in writing to name Shanks.

         On August 26, 2016, counsel for Parker sent Investigator Verrier an affidavit by Parker in which she detailed her allegations that she told Shanks about the sexual assaults and that Shanks did not take action to report or actively prevent them. The Complaint in this matter naming Shanks was filed with this Court on June 14, 2017.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A party is entitled to summary judgment if, on the record before the court, it appears “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). In this case, there are no material factual disputes at issue. The Court must only consider whether Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         The Maine Tort Claims Act (“MTCA”), 14 M.R.S.A. §§ 8101-8118, which governs tort suits against the State of Maine and its employees, provides,

1. Notice requirements for filing. Within 180 days after any claim or cause of action permitted by this chapter accrues, or at a later time within the limits of section 8110, when a claimant shows good cause why notice could not have reasonably been filed within the 180-day limit, a claimant or a claimant's ...

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