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.

Seeley v. St. Anthony's Catholic Church

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

April 24, 2013

KATHY SEELEY, Plaintiff,
v.
ST. ANTHONY'S CATHOLIC CHURCH, DIOCESE OF CHEYENNE, DEACON DONALD STEWART, FATHER MICHAEL CARR, FATHER KEVIN KOCH, FATHER LUCAS SIMANGO, BISHOP DAVID RICKEN, and BISHOP HUBERT HART, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DIOCESAN DEFENDANTS AND ST. ANTHONY'S DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

ALAN B. JOHNSON, District Judge.

Kathy Seeley sued Deacon Donald Stewart after he allegedly leveraged his position as a member of the clergy to sexually abuse her. She also sued St. Anthony's Catholic Church, the Diocese of Cheyenne, and officials within those organizations for vicarious liability and negligent training and supervision. These Church Defendants have now filed motions for summary judgment on all of Ms. Seeley's claims. The Court concludes that they are entitled to summary judgment and therefore GRANTS their motions.

FACTS

In 1991, Donald Stewart became interested in becoming a Deacon for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne. He discussed his interest with Bishop Hubert Hart, the Bishop of the Diocese, and ultimately applied to a deacon training program. As part of his application, Mr. Stewart submitted various materials including letters of recommendation and a report from a psychological evaluation. Nothing in Mr. Stewart's materials raised any red flags so Bishop Hart accepted Mr. Stewart into the deacon training program. During his training, no one ever expressed any concerns about Mr. Stewart to Bishop Hart.

In 1996, Mr. Stewart finished his training. Bishop Hart then ordained him as a Deacon and assigned him to St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Casper, a parish within the Diocese of Cheyenne. Bishop Hart retired in 2001, but during the entire time he knew Deacon Stewart no one ever expressed any concerns to him about Deacon Stewart, much less concerns about sexual abuse or improprieties.

A few years after Deacon Stewart was ordained, two members of Kathy Seeley's family tragically died. She turned to St. Anthony's to help her cope with the loss. In 2001 or 2002, she met with Father Michael Carr, the pastor at St. Anthony's, who referred her to Deacon Stewart for bereavement counseling. Ms. Seeley and Deacon Stewart remained friends over the next several years. In January 2007, their relationship became sexual even though Deacon Stewart was married to another woman at the time.

Although their sexual relationship was consensual, Ms. Seeley now feels that Deacon Stewart is a sexual perpetrator who "groomed" her for sex from the very start of their relationship, and that this grooming process culminated in his sexually abusing her starting in January 2007. And in June 2007, Ms. Seeley met with Father Carr intending to tell him about this sexual abuse. However, during their meeting, Ms. Seeley could not bring herself to tell Father Carr about the relationship with Deacon Stewart. For his part, Father Carr has testified that he was never aware of any sexual relationship between Ms. Seeley and Deacon Stewart. He also has testified that no one ever expressed any concerns to him or St. Anthony's about Deacon Stewart, much less concerns about sexual abuse.

Despite feeling sexually abused by Deacon Stewart, Ms. Seeley stayed in the relationship until it completely unraveled in January 2008 when Deacon Stewart allegedly battered Ms. Seeley while the two were in California together. They took separate flights back to Wyoming and Ms. Seeley has not seen or spoken to Deacon Stewart since.

Several years later, Ms. Seeley sued Deacon Stewart for negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED) and intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED). Her complaint also brought suit against St. Anthony's, the Diocese, Bishop Hart, Bishop David Ricken, Father Can, Father Kevin Koch, and Father Lucas Simango (collectively, "Church Defendants"). Bishop Ricken took over as Bishop for the Diocese after Bishop Hart retired in 2001, and he served as Bishop until 2008. Father Carr was the pastor of St. Anthony's from 1998 to June 2007. He was succeeded by Father Koch, who served as St. Anthony's pastor from June 2007 until he resigned in 2011. Father Lucas served as an associate pastor at St. Anthony's from 2006 to 2008, and he took over as pastor in 2011 after Father Koch resigned. Ms. Seeley brought NIED and IIED claims against the Church Defendants as well. She also alleged that the Church Defendants negligently hired, trained, supervised, and retained Deacon Stewart and that they are vicariously liable for Deacon Stewart's sexual abuse of her.

The Church Defendants recently filed motions for summary judgment on all of Ms. Seeley's claims. They argue that Ms. Seeley is not within the class of persons who can bring an NIED claim and that she has no facts to support her IIED claim against them. Regarding Ms. Seeley's negligence claims, the Church Defendants argue that Ms. Seeley must show that they knew or should have known about Deacon Stewart's propensity for sexual abuse, and that Ms. Seeley has no facts to support that element of her claims. Finally, they argue that Ms. Seeley's vicarious liability claim fails because Deacon Stewart was not acting within the scope of his employment when he allegedly sexually abused Ms. Seeley.

Ms. Seeley makes a number of concessions in response. She concedes that the Church Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on her NIED and IIED claims. She also concedes her claims for negligent hiring and negligent retention. However, she maintains her claims for vicarious liability and negligent training and supervision.

The Court first will discuss the standard of review for the Church Defendants' summary judgment motions before turning to a discussion of Ms. Seeley's claims for vicarious liability and negligent training and supervision. A brief conclusion follows.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate where "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). A dispute of fact is genuine if a reasonable juror could resolve the disputed fact in favor of either side. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of fact is material if under the substantive law it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim. Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998). When the Court considers the evidence presented by the parties, "[t]he ...


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.