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Schultz v. Boy Scouts of Am.

Court of Appeals of New York

February 7, 1985, Argued ; April 30, 1985, Decided

No Number in Original

Opinion

 [*192]   [**680]   [***92]  OPINION OF THE COURT

Plaintiffs, Richard E. and Margaret Schultz, instituted this action to recover  [**681]  damages for personal injuries they and their sons, Richard and Christopher, suffered because the boys were sexually abused by defendant Edmund Coakeley and for damages sustained as a result of Christopher's wrongful death after he committed suicide. Coakeley, a brother in the Franciscan order, was the [****10]  boys' school teacher and leader of their scout troop. Plaintiffs allege that the sexual abuse occurred while Coakeley was acting in those capacities and the causes of action before us on this appeal charge defendants Boy Scouts of America, Inc., and the Brothers of the Poor of St. Francis, Inc. (sued as Franciscan Brothers of the Poor, Inc.), with negligently hiring and supervising him.

Plaintiffs are domiciled in New Jersey and some of the injuries were sustained there. Thus, a choice-of-law issue is presented because New Jersey recognizes the doctrine of charitable immunity and New York does not. Defendants contend New Jersey law governs this litigation and that its courts have already determined that plaintiffs' claims are barred in a separate action against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark (see, Schultz v Roman Catholic Archdiocese, 95 NJ 530, 472 A2d 531). Following the rationale of Babcock v Jackson (12 NY2d 473) and similar cases, we hold that New Jersey law applies and that plaintiffs are precluded from relitigating its effect on the claims they assert.

In 1978 plaintiffs were residents of Emerson, New Jersey, where their two sons, Richard, age 13,  [****11]  and Christopher, age 11,  [*193]  attended Assumption School, an institution owned and operated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark. By an agreement with the Archdiocese, defendant Brothers of the Poor of St. Francis, Inc., supplied teachers for the school. One of those assigned was Brother Edmund Coakeley, who also served as the scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 337, a locally chartered Boy Scout troop sponsored and approved by defendant Boy Scouts of America. Richard and Christopher attended Coakeley's class and were members of his scout troop.

In July 1978 Coakeley took Christopher Schultz to Pine Creek Reservation, a Boy Scout camp located in upstate New York near the Oneida County community of Foresport. The camp was located on land owned by Peter Grandy, who was also a resident of Emerson, New Jersey. 1 The complaint alleges that while at the camp, Coakeley sexually abused Christopher, that he continued to do so when Christopher returned to Assumption School in New Jersey that fall and that he threatened Christopher with harm if he revealed what had occurred. The complaint also alleges that Coakeley sexually abused Richard Schultz and made similar threats to him [****12]  during a scout trip to Pine Creek Reservation on Memorial Day weekend in 1978. Plaintiffs claim that as a result of Coakeley's acts both boys suffered severe psychological, emotional and mental pain and suffering and that as a result of the distress Coakeley's acts caused, Christopher Schultz committed suicide by ingesting drugs on May 29, 1979. They charge both defendants with negligence in assigning Coakeley to positions of trust where he could molest young boys and in failing to dismiss him despite actual or constructive notice that Coakeley had previously been dismissed from another Boy Scout camp for similar improper conduct.

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65 N.Y.2d 189 *; 480 N.E.2d 679 **; 491 N.Y.S.2d 90 ***; 1985 N.Y. LEXIS 14675 ****

Richard E. Schultz, Individually and as Administrator of the Estate of Christopher Schultz, Deceased, and as Father and Natural Guardian of Richard Schultz, et al., Appellants, v. Boy Scouts of America, Inc., et al., Respondents, et al., Defendants

Prior History:  [****1]  Appeal from an order of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the First Judicial Department, entered May 24, 1984, which, by a divided court, affirmed an order and judgment (one paper) of the Supreme Court at Special Term (Albert P. Williams, J.), entered in New York County, (1) granting a motion by defendant Franciscan Brothers of the Poor, Inc., and a cross motion by defendant Boy Scouts of America, Inc., for summary judgment dismissing the complaint as it relates to them, (2) severing plaintiffs' causes of action against said defendants, and (3) dismissing the complaint insofar as it alleges causes of action against said defendants.

 Schultz v Boy Scouts of Am 102 AD2d 100.

Disposition: Order affirmed, with costs.

CORE TERMS

charitable immunity, domicile, public policy, parties, locus, Scouts, conflict of laws, injuries, resident, contacts, plaintiffs', choice of law, guest statute, charitable, damages, cause of action, choice-of-law, courts, collateral estoppel, foreign law, loss-distribution, immunity, tortious conduct, tort-feasor, purposes, insured, wrongful death action, circumstances, domiciliaries, psychological

Civil Procedure, Federal & State Interrelationships, Choice of Law, Forum & Place, Torts, Procedural Matters, Conflict of Law, General Overview, Place of Injury, Vicarious Liability, Defenses, Specific Immunities, Charitable Immunity, Workers' Compensation & SSDI, Benefit Determinations, Death Benefits, Multiple Defendants, Distinct & Divisible Harms, Exclusivity, Public Entity Liability, Liability, Agency Relationships, Preliminary Considerations, Preclusion of Judgments, Full Faith & Credit, Constitutional Law, Relations Among Governments, Full Faith & Credit, Judgments, Estoppel, Collateral Estoppel