DutyOfCare_FailureToAct-JSAndMS_v_RTH - DOC
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4ff3a54c-6b58-40f6-a8c9-e4d113e9841c.doc Page 421 J.S. and M.S. (parents) v. R.T.H. (wife), Supreme Court of NJ, 1998 Issue Did the ∆ have a duty of care to the girls to detect/prevent/stop the sexual abuse? Did she have a duty to protect them? Reasoning Rule Facts ∏’s teenage daughter (ages 12 and 15), spent a substantial amount of time at ∆’s and her husband’s home and barn (riding and caring for the horses.) ∆’s husband sexually abused the girls for a period of more than a year. ∆ conceded for purposes of argument that “at all relevant times” she “knew of should have known of her husband’s propensities” It may be determined that it was particularly foreseeable that the husband was abusing the young girls. The evidence at trial could support a finding of negligence on ∆’s part. It is inferable that ∆ could’ve discharged her duty in so many ways: like confronting the husband, like insisting that the girls not be alone with the husband, like by keeping a watchful eye, like talking to the girls’ parents. Evidence may be found sufficient to support the determination that the harm suffered by the girls was not a highly extraordinary result of the breach of duty. When a spouse has actual knowledge or special reason to know of the likelihood of his or her spouse engaging in sexually abusive behavior against a particular person or persons, a spouse has a duty of care to take reasonable steps to prevent or warn of the harm. Breach of such a duty constitutes a proximate cause of the resultant injury: the sexual abuse of the victim Held Procedure P argues D argues The court held that ∆ could be held liable if she had actual knowledge or special reason to know of the likelihood of her husband engaging in sexually abusive behavior against the girls. Trial court entered summary judgment in favor of ∆, and the appellate court reversed the order and remanded the cause to extend discovery.