Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
North Carolina Appeals Court Ruling Shows Limits of Negligent Selection and Negligent Supervision
Key point 10-09.1. Some courts have found churches liable on the basis of negligent supervision for a worker's acts of child molestation on the ground that the church failed to exercise reasonable care in the supervision of the victim or of its own programs and activities.

A North Carolina appeals court ruled that a diocese could be sued on the basis of negligent supervision for a priest's molestation of a 16-year-old boy, but dismissed a negligent hiring claim and a demand that the priest undergo a test for sexually transmitted diseases. An adult male (the "plaintiff") claimed that when he was 16 years old a priest sexually assaulted him on multiple occasions. He further claimed that the priest had begun to "cultivate a special relationship with him, and began to groom him for sexual assault by exhibiting frequent physical contact with him through hugs and embraces." The plaintiff alleged that the first sexual assault occurred when the priest invited him to spend the night at his home and that the second incident took place when the priest, "using his stature as a priest," secured an invitation to spend the night at the plaintiff's home.

The plaintiff reported the sexual abuse to church officials, resulting in the priest's immediate suspension. The plaintiff sued the diocese, claiming that it was responsible for the priest's actions on the basis of its negligence in hiring and supervising the priest. He also asked the court to compel the priest to undergo a test for sexually transmitted diseases.

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