Natalie Henderson Individually v. Capdeville

Decision Date03 March 2023
Docket Number2022-CA-0655
PartiesNATALIE HENDERSON INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NATURAL TUTRIX OF HER MINOR CHILD "GH" v. JOSH CAPDEVILLE, CITIZENS' COMMITTEE FOR EDUCATION D/B/A HOMER A. PLESSY COMMUNITY SCHOOL AND GUIDEONE INSURANCE
CourtCourt of Appeal of Louisiana — District of US

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NATALIE HENDERSON INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NATURAL TUTRIX OF HER MINOR CHILD "GH"
v.
JOSH CAPDEVILLE, CITIZENS' COMMITTEE FOR EDUCATION D/B/A HOMER A. PLESSY COMMUNITY SCHOOL AND GUIDEONE INSURANCE

No. 2022-CA-0655

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

March 3, 2023


APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2020-03150, DIVISION “L” Honorable Kern A. Reese, Judge

Marcus J. Plaisance Mark David Plaisance LAW, LLC Elizabeth A.B. Goree THE LAW OFFICE OF ELIZABETH GOREE Hunter F. Thomas THOMAS LAW FIRM COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT

William P. Gibbens Gwyneth O'Neil SCHONEKAS, EVANS, McGOEY & McEACHIN, L.L.C. COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE

Court composed of Chief Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Paula A. Brown, Judge Tiffany Gautier Chase

Terri F. Love Chief Judge

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This matter arises out of the alleged sexual assault of a 12-year-old minor by his teacher. Appellant Natalie Henderson ("Ms. Henderson"), individually and as tutrix of her minor child G.H.[1], filed suit against defendants, Josh Capdeville (Mr. Capdeville), Citizens' Committee for Education, D/B/A Homer A. Plessy Community School ("Homer Plessy") and GuideOne Insurance. Ms. Henderson alleges that Mr. Capdeville, G.H.'s homeroom and science teacher, sexually assaulted G.H. at school.

On appeal, Ms. Henderson argues the trial court erroneously granted Mr. Capdeville's motion for summary judgment. Mr. Capdeville asserted that the supporting documentation attached to his motion, which included affidavits of Homer Plessy personnel and his attorney, video statements from G.H., and G.H.'s medical records, demonstrated that Ms. Henderson would not be able to satisfy her burden of proof at trial. Ms. Henderson countered that Mr. Capdeville's evidence was insufficient to resolve all issues of material fact.

Based upon this Court's de novo review of the record, we find that genuine issues of material fact remain that preclude summary judgment relief. Accordingly,

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we reverse the trial court's judgment and remand the matter to the trial court for further proceedings.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

G.H., a "high functioning autistic" child,[2] was twelve years old at the time of the alleged sexual assault(s). Sometime after G.H. returned home from school on February 12, 2020, Ms. Henderson overheard G.H. talking to himself in the shower. He mentioned not having a boyfriend. Ms. Henderson asked G.H. if anyone was touching him. G.H. responded that "Mr. C" had touched him and had put his penis in G.H.'s behind. He said the contact happened "yesterday" and had happened ten times.[3]

After G.H.'s disclosure that Mr. Capdeville had sexually assaulted him, Ms. Henderson took him to Children's Hospital. There, G.H. was forensically examined by medical staff and was assessed in the Social Services Section. The Children's Hospital medical records revealed, in part, that G.H. reported that Mr. Capdeville had put his put his penis in G.H.'s butt and did it "multiple times" and that Mr. Capdeville's finger touched G.H.'s private area and "started playing with it." G.H. further alleged that the first time it happened was "last Friday." He said he kept asking Mr. Capdeville to stop; but Mr. Capdeville did not. The Children's Hospital test results were negative for penile lesions, anal fissures, sperm cells, and sexually transmitted diseases.

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Based on a referral from Children's Hospital, Ms. Henderson took G.H. to the Audrey Hepburn Care Center where he was forensically examined. According to the interviewer's notes, G.H. disclosed, in part, that:

One of his classmates bullies him at school. Mr. C put penis in my butt. Mr. C teaches us science. Don't tell my mom that he put his penis in my butt. No students in the classroom, just me and him. He closed the door, taking his clothes and my clothes off. Put his clothes and my clothes back on. Went downstairs to Ms. Andrea/math class. Multi-X (lOx). Stayed in it. Hair on it (white). Hurting really bad. Finger touched my private area, started playing w/it, touching it a lot, kept telling him to stop. Said my mom should let people die. Put penis in butt. Not hurt now. Mom wanted to know if anyone been touching on me, it was Mr. C. Knew he was going to do something terrible.

Subsequently, Ms. Henderson reported G.H.'s sexual assault allegations to Megan Raychaudhuri ("Principal Raychaudhuri"), the principal of Homer Plessy. Principal Raychaudhuri conducted an investigation. The school's investigation did not substantiate the sexual assault allegations against Mr. Capdeville.

The New Orleans Police Department ("NOPD") also opened an investigation. Its investigation did not result in any charges against Mr. Capdeville. Thereafter, Ms. Henderson filed a Petition for Damages ("the Petition"). The

Petition alleged in part, that "[d] uring that period of time [when G.H. was assigned to Mr. Capdeville's homeroom], Defendant Josh Capdeville, on at least one occasion on February 12, 2020, committed criminal sexual assault on plaintiff's minor child, 'G.H.,' during regular school hours on the school premises of Homer A. Plessy Community School."

Mr. Capdeville's Motion for Summary Judgment

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As part of his response to the Petition, Mr. Capdeville filed a motion for summary judgment,[4] maintaining that there was no physical evidence that he raped or otherwise assaulted G.H. In support of his motion, Mr. Capdeville attached affidavits from Principal Raychaudhuri; two Homer Plessy teachers-Dr. Jancarlo "J.C." Romero and Andrea Arrellano-along with photographs of the inside of Mr. Capdeville's classroom and a closet;[5] an affidavit from Mr. Capdeville's attorney; G.H.'s medical records; and video interviews of G. H. recorded by Ms. Henderson.

Principal Raychaudhuri's Affidavit

Principal Raychaudhuri averred that Homer Plessy has over twenty-two cameras in the school building and/or on the campus. She said she watched over four hours of video surveillance footage from the school that was recorded on February 12, 2020. She stated that her review of the surveillance video showed that G.H. and Mr. Capdeville were never alone in the classroom; that G.H. left Mr. Capdeville's classroom with students to go to other classes and returned to Mr. Capdeville's classroom with other students; and that G.H. left school with his mother around 1:10 p.m. Principal Raychaudhuri stated that no one reported viewing anything out of the...

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