Doe v. Knights of Columbus, 3:10 - CV- 1960 (CSH)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
PartiesJOHN DOE NO. 1, Plaintiff, v. KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS, Defendant.
Docket Number3:10 - CV- 1960 (CSH)
Decision Date12 March 2013



HAIGHT, Senior District Judge:


Plaintiff John Doe No. 1 (herein "Plaintiff") brings this action for damages arising from horrific sexual abuse he allegedly endured over a six-year period when he was a minor engaged in the activities of the Columbian Squires ("Squires"), the national youth program of defendant Knights of Columbus ("Defendant" or "KOC"). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he was sexually molested by Julian Rivera ("Rivera"), the adult leader assigned by KOC to supervise the Brownsville, Texas unit of the Squires, in which Plaintiff participated from 1978 to 1986.

Plaintiff's Complaint sets forth two counts: (1) negligence for KOC's alleged failure to ensure Plaintiff's safety and well being while he was in the custody and care of the Squires, particularly, inter alia, by failing in its duties of "placement, retention and supervision of Rivera as an adult leader," Doc. #1 (Complaint), ¶¶ 25-33; and (2) declaratory relief - a request for declaratory judgment that Plaintiff relied on the intentional, fraudulent misrepresentations of a KOCagent to execute the signature page later attached to the document entitled "Settlement Agreement and Full Release" ("Release"), rendering the Release void in that KOC procured it "by fraud," id., ¶¶ 34- 42.

Pending before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Doc. #17. Defendant sets forth three bases for dismissal: (1) Plaintiff's claim for negligence is barred by the Texas two-year statute of limitations; (2) Plaintiff fails to plead the required element of "foreseeability" to maintain a negligence action; and (3) Plaintiff fails to state a claim for fraud and misrepresentation with respect to Defendant's procurement of the Release in that (a) Plaintiff was not justified in relying on the alleged misrepresentations of KOC's agent when Plaintiff signed the Release, and (b) Plaintiff ratified the Release as a matter of law.

Also pending before the Court is Defendant's alternative motion to bifurcate pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b). Doc. #22. In that motion, Defendant requests "a separate trial" on each of the two counts set forth in Plaintiff's Complaint. Id., p. 1. KOC asserts that a preliminary trial of Plaintiff's declaratory relief claim, involving KOC's alleged fraud and misrepresentation in procuring the Release, should precede trial on his negligence claim. In support, KOC seeks a preliminary determination as to the validity of the Release because that determination: (1) would be "potentially dispositive," (2) may "save the Court and the parties valuable resources and time," and (3) would prevent KOC from suffering "unnecessary and undue prejudice" which would likely occur if the same jury determining the validity of the Release heard the "potentially graphic" evidence of sexual abuse Plaintiff will present with respect to his negligence claim. Doc. #23, p. 1-2.

The Court will first address Defendant's Motion to Dismiss to determine which, if any, of Plaintiff's actions states a valid claim upon which relief may be granted. Upon making this ruling, the Court will turn to Defendant's Motion to Bifurcate.


A. The Parties

Plaintiff John Doe is an adult male resident of the State of Kansas who was born in 1968.1 He filed the case at bar under the pseudonym "John Doe 1" in order "to protect his identity as victim of childhood sexual abuse and prevent further psychological harm . . . if his name were publicly disclosed." Doc. #1, ¶ 1.

Defendant KOC is a "Catholic fraternal benefit organization that was created as a social network intended to provide financial assistance to its members and engage in religious and charitable works." Id., ¶ 7. The president of KOC is known as the "Supreme Knight" and the organization is governed by a board of directors, known as the "Supreme Council." Id. Membership in KOC is open to men 18 years of age or older who are practicing Catholics committed to supporting the Catholic Church and improving their respective communities through "pro-life and youth activities." Id., ¶ 8. Since its inception in 1882 in New Haven, Connecticut, KOC has increased in size from several members, comprising one council, to more than 1.8 million members, constituting more than 14,000 councils throughout the United States and various other countries in the world. Doc. #18, p. 9-10. Each KOC council is directly subordinate, "under the direction and control," of the KOC headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut. Doc. #1, ¶ 9.

The Columbian Squires program, founded in 1925, is the official national youth program of KOC. Id., ¶ 10. The Columbian Squires recruit Catholic boys "between the ages of 10 and 18 who are committed to developing their leadership qualities and supporting the Roman Catholic Church." Id. Each Columbian Squires unit must operate within the structure and regulations of KOC. Id. Moreover, "[a]ccording to the [KOC] regulations, each Columbian Squires unit is overseen and supervised by at least one adult [KOC] member." Id.

B. Allegations of Sexual Abuse

In 1978, when Plaintiff was approximately ten years old, he was introduced to the Columbian Squires in Brownsville, Texas. Id., ¶11. Plaintiff alleges that between 1978 and 1986 he was subjected to "horrific child sexual abuse" by Juan "Julian" Rivera, who was appointed by KOC as adult leader of the Columbian Squires program in Brownsville, Texas. Id., ¶ 6. Plaintiff asserts that Rivera "actively solicited" him to join the Columbian Squires, "telling [Plaintiff] and his family that as a Squire, [Plaintiff] could do much to help people" and that "his involvement in the Squires would positively affect [Plaintiff's] growth and development as a person." Id., ¶ 11. According to Plaintiff, during his time as a Squire, Plaintiff was "groomed and sexually abused [by Rivera] at various locations throughout the United States," "including many local and national events for the Columbian Squires." Id., ¶¶ 6, 17.

In particular, during Plaintiff's first two years in the Squires, on at least ten occasions, Rivera allegedly provided Plaintiff with increasingly sexually graphic pornography to view with Rivera, including "graphic sexual depictions" of "homosexual activity." Id., ¶ 13. When Plaintiff was approximately twelve years old, Rivera allegedly took Plaintiff on an overnight trip and gave him"large amount[s] of whiskey and marijuana until [Plaintiff] became intoxicated and passed out."2 Id., ¶ 14. "When [Plaintiff] awoke, Rivera was naked from the waist down, pulling his pants up from around his ankles." Id. On another evening during the same trip, Rivera allegedly gave Plaintiff a white pill and alcohol to help him "relax." Id., ¶ 15. Then, according to Plaintiff, Rivera insisted that Plaintiff give him a massage. Id. When Plaintiff refused, Rivera allegedly "pulled a small handgun out of his pocket and placed it next to him on the ground and told [Plaintiff] there was nothing wrong with a massage." Id. Plaintiff asserts that his fear of being shot by Rivera compelled him to perform the requested massage and other sexual demands by Rivera. Id. Following the sexual massage incident, Rivera allegedly told Plaintiff that "he could never tell anyone what happened or Rivera would kill [Plaintiff's] family." Id.

Plaintiff maintains that over the next six years, Rivera continued "brutally and horrifically sexually abus[ing]" him. Id., ¶ 16. Plaintiff alleges that Rivera also continued issuing threats of bodily harm and death to Plaintiff and/or his family if Plaintiff spoke of Rivera's actions or refused to comply with his sexual demands.3 Id.

Furthermore, according to Plaintiff, "[d]uring the years he was sexually abusing [Plaintiff], Rivera also bought him clothing, gave him money, took him out to dinners, and allowed him to drive Rivera's [motor] vehicle." Id., ¶ 18. In addition to such gifts, Rivera allegedly encouraged Plaintiff to date girls from school to prevent others from becoming suspicious about his own sexual activity with Plaintiff. Id.

With respect to locations of abuse, Plaintiff alleges that Rivera sexually abused him "in the local Knights of Columbus hall where the Columbian Squires met, as well as Rivera's office and apartment." Id., ¶ 17. Plaintiff also recounts that "[t]he horrible, nightmarish sexual abuse occurred at multiple locations in the United States on overnight trips, including many local and national events for the Columbian Squires." Id. During such trips, not only did Rivera allegedly give Plaintiff and other minor boys alcohol, he repeatedly took the intoxicated Plaintiff to a "hotel room to engage him in sexual contact." Id. Rivera also allegedly "shared" Plaintiff "with at least one other adult leader of the Columbian Squires in another city."4 Id., ¶ 19. This leader subsequently invited Plaintiff to visit him and attend church with him. Id. When Plaintiff thereafter visited this adult leader, the leader allegedly "plied [him] with alcohol and drugs" and "sexually abused him." Id.

Having alleged frequent and pervasive activities of sexual abuse by Rivera and at least one other Columbian Squires leader, including activities within the Brownsville Squires unit and in the KOC hall, Plaintiff contends that KOC "was aware that adult leaders used the Columbian Squiresto gain access to boys for purposes of pedophilia." Id., ¶ 21. Plaintiff further alleges that KOC "became familiar with the specific characteristics, patterns of behavior and 'red flags' that suggested an adult leader had sexual interest in boys."5 Id.

Plaintiff ultimately left the Squires in Brownsville, Texas...

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