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Bouchard v. New York Archdiocese

May 18, 2006

ANGIE BOUCHARD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW YORK ARCHDIOCESE, CARDINAL JOHN EGAN, CHURCH OF OUR SAVIOR, FR. KENNEDY, FR. : "JOHN DOE", AND "JOHN DOE" RELIGIOUS ORDER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Haight, Senior United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

In this diversity action, Plaintiff Angie Bouchard has sued the Defendants for alleged misconduct relating to certain sexual transgressions she claims she suffered at the hands of Defendant Father Kennedy (first name unspecified), a Catholic priest. Pending before the Court are two multi-part motions: (1) a motion by the Archdiocese of New York s/h/a New York Archdiocese, Edward Cardinal Egan s/h/a Cardinal John Egan, and the Church of Our Savior (collectively, "the Church Defendants") to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and/or for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 in favor of the Archdiocese and Egan, and to strike certain material from the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f); and (2) a cross-motion by Plaintiff for a hearing and for sanctions and/or attorney's fees.

For the reasons that follow, the Church Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part, and Plaintiff's motion is denied in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

According to Plaintiff, Father Kennedy is a Catholic priest who traveled from Sri Lanka to visit the Church of Our Savior in New York City, and was granted faculties*fn1 and dual employment with the Archdiocese. While Kennedy was at the church, Plaintiff claims that she met with him to discuss her past history of sexual abuse. Kennedy allegedly told Plaintiff that he had previously "cured" several women from different parts of the world of "all the problems they had pertaining to a past of sexual abuse." Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl.") ¶ 14. Plaintiff states that she and Kennedy then engaged in his purported treatment, which allegedly consisted of Kennedy instructing Plaintiff to use a handkerchief to "wipe away the abuse" from those areas where she had been touched by past abusers, while closing her eyes and "envision[ing] the abuser disappearing in fire or flames." Id. ¶ 15. According to Plaintiff, this happened on two separate occasions. Although Plaintiff allegedly told Kennedy that the activity "didn't feel right, and she was uncomfortable," Kennedy pushed her to continue, and touched her without her consent. Id. ¶ 16.

Kennedy also purportedly asked about Plaintiff's sexual history, which she reluctantly provided to him. According to Plaintiff, Kennedy said that his method was not working properly, and that they needed more privacy and a place with a bed to continue the process of dealing with the abuse. Plaintiff asserts that she was manipulated into volunteering her apartment, and sending her roommates away, despite her fear. At her apartment, Kennedy allegedly instructed Plaintiff to lie down on the bed and use the same method as before, while he sat near the bed in a chair.

Additionally, Plaintiff claims that Kennedy stated he had to do one more thing to see whether she had been helped or not, which was "unbuckle [Plaintiff's] pants and with his hand bring her to orgasm," using his watch to time her. Id. ¶ 22. Plaintiff allegedly objected to this, but Kennedy told her it was the only way to prove she had been helped. According to Plaintiff, "[she] said no but he insisted and did this without her consent," all the while manipulating her with stories of his past successes with treating other women. Id. Kennedy allegedly "brought her to climax and timed her," and then proclaimed her cured. Id. Plaintiff claims he then told her to stand in front of the mirror with him, and that he then touched her breasts without her consent.

Plaintiff now claims that she was substantially harmed by this abuse. She also apparently claims that the Church Defendants knew or had reason to know that Kennedy had abusive tendencies, but nonetheless hired him and failed to supervise him or warn those with whom he might have contact. According to Plaintiff, the Church Defendants attempted to cover up Kennedy's wrongdoing by transferring him elsewhere.

For their part, certain of the Church Defendants dispute the existence of any sort of employment relationship with Kennedy. Monsignor O'Connor, the Director of the Office of Priest Personnel of the Archdiocese of New York, stated that he is responsible for receiving and processing applications for faculties from priests who are visiting the Archdiocese from other dioceses or orders, and that he never received any application or request from Kennedy for faculties, and that the Archdiocese never granted faculties to Kennedy. O'Connor Affidavit ¶¶ 2-3. According to O'Connor, he searched the records of the Archdiocese, and did not find any record of receiving an application for faculties from Kennedy. Id. ¶ 4. Moreover, O'Connor asserts he never even heard of Kennedy until 2004, when Plaintiff's allegations came to light, and that Kennedy was never employed by the Archdiocese. Id. ¶ 5. Finally, O'Connor states that the Archdiocese never had any knowledge, and still has no knowledge, of any prior history of Kennedy. Id.

Father Rutler, the pastor of defendant Church of Our Savior since September 17, 2001, states that he does not know and has never met Kennedy, but that "[i]t appears that he was a foreign priest from Sri Lanka who visited the Church of our Savior for a short time during the summer of 2001," before Rutler became the parish pastor. Affidavit of Father George Rutler ¶¶ 2-3. According to Rutler, church records show that the church issued checks to Kennedy in August of 2001, apparently for religious services provided. Id. ¶¶ 4-5. Rutler asserts that the parish pastor is not required to seek approval from the Archdiocese before issuing such checks. Id. ¶ 5. According to Rutler, Father Hennessy, who signed the checks, and Monsignor O'Neill, who was the parish pastor during Rutler's time at the church, are both deceased. Id. ¶ 3.

In her Amended Complaint, Plaintiff has asserted against all defendants claims for negligence, intentional torts of harassment, battery, and sexual assault, negligent infliction of emotional distress, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligent hiring and supervision by the Church Defendants. The Church Defendants have moved to dismiss all claims, and/or for summary judgment in favor of the Archdiocese and Egan, on a number of theories.*fn2 Additionally, the Church Defendants seek to have stricken from the Amended Complaint certain allegedly baseless claims that they say are scandalous and immaterial. Plaintiff has filed a cross-motion for a hearing, for the imposition of sanctions, and/or for an award of attorney's fees.

DISCUSSION

I. The Church Defendants' Motion

A. Rule 12(b)(6)

1. Standard of Review

The Church Defendants have moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for failure to state a claim. The district court should grant a Rule 12(b)(6) motion "only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). On a motion to dismiss, a district court must accept a plaintiff's well-pleaded factual allegations as true, Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 283 (1986), and such factual allegations must be "construed favorably to the plaintiff," LaBounty v. Adler, 933 F.2d 121, 123 (2d Cir. 1991) (citations omitted). However, "[c]onclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will not suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss." Smith v. Local 819 I.B.T. Pension Plan, 291 F.3d 236, 240 (2d Cir. 2002) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). "The review of [a 12(b)(6)] motion is limited, and the issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims. Recovery may appear remote and unlikely on the face of the pleading, but that is not the test for dismissal." Bernheim v. Litt, 79 F.3d 318, 321 (2d Cir. 1996) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

When deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court may consider documents that are referenced in the complaint, documents that the plaintiff relied on in bringing suit and that are either in the plaintiffs' possession or the plaintiffs knew of when bringing suit, or matters of which judicial notice may be ...


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