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Boy Scouts of America National Foundation et al v. the Superior Court of Santa Clara County

May 24, 2012

BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA NATIONAL FOUNDATION ET AL., PETITIONERS,
v.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF SANTA CLARA COUNTY, RESPONDENT; JOHN DOE I ET AL., REAL PARTIES IN INTEREST.



Trial Court: Santa Clara County Superior Court Superior Court No.: 1-10-CV173063 Trial Judge: Hon. Kevin E. McKenney

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bamattre-manoukian, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

(Santa Clara County Super. Ct. No. 1-10-CV173063)

I. INTRODUCTION

Real parties in interest John Doe 1, John Doe 2, and John Doe 3 are brothers who allege that they were sexually molested from 1977 to 1987 by William "Bill" E. Knox,*fn1 their stepfather and a leader of their church Boy Scout troop. In 2009, at ages 43, 42 and 39, respectively, they filed an action against Knox and the Mormon Church,*fn2 as well as the Boy Scouts of America National Foundation and the Pacific Skyline Council, Boy Scouts of America (hereafter, collectively the Boy Scouts) in which they alleged that the Boy Scouts were liable under various tort theories for the psychological injuries they suffered as adults due to childhood sexual abuse.*fn3

The Boy Scouts demurred to the second amended complaint on the ground that the action was time-barred under Code of Civil Procedure section 340.1, subdivision (b)(1).*fn4 Section 340.1 provides the limitations periods for civil actions arising from childhood sexual abuse. Subdivision (b)(1), with one exception not relevant here, bars claims of negligent or intentional wrongdoing by a nonperpetrator "person or entity" after the plaintiff's 26th birthday. (§ 340.1, subd. (b)(1).) The trial court sustained the demurrers without leave to amend as to all causes of action, except the demurrer to the fifth cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress, which the court overruled.

The Boy Scouts filed a petition for a writ of mandate directing the trial court to vacate that portion of its order overruling the demurrer to the fifth cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress, arguing that the court had erred in determining that the fifth cause of action was timely under the delayed discovery provision of section 340.1, subdivision (a)(1). The Boy Scouts contend that the section 340.1, subdivision (a)(1) delayed discovery provision applies only to actions against individual perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse, not corporate entities like the Boy Scouts.

After we heard oral argument in this matter, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Quarry v. Doe I (2012) 53 Cal.4th 945 (Quarry), which addressed section 340.1. We requested supplemental briefing from the parties discussing the Quarry decision. Counsel for John Doe 1, John Doe 2, and John Doe 3 advised us in their supplemental letter brief that due to the Quarry decision they had filed in the trial court a request for dismissal with prejudice of the fifth cause of action for "Procurement under Penal Code Section 266j," which is captioned the fifth cause of action for "Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress" in the second amended complaint.

Although the dismissal with prejudice of the fifth cause of action will render the writ petition moot, we will exercise our discretion to retain this original proceeding and decide the question presented. Where, as here, " 'an action involves a matter of continuing public interest and the issue is likely to recur, a court may exercise an inherent discretion to resolve that issue, even though an event occurring during its pendency would normally render the matter moot.' [Citations.]" (Morehart v. County of Santa Barbara (1994) 7 Cal.4th 725, 746-747; see also Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority v. Public Utilities Com. (2004) 124 Cal.App.4th 346, 355-356; Reliance Ins. Co. v. Superior Court (2000) 84 Cal.App.4th 383, 385.)

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Our summary of the facts is drawn from the allegations of the second amended complaint, since we must assume the truth of the properly pleaded factual allegations in reviewing an order overruling a demurrer. (Guardian North Bay, Inc. v. Superior Court (2001) 94 Cal.App.4th 963, 971-972 (Guardian North Bay).)

John Doe 1 was born in 1966, John Doe 2 was born in 1967, and John Doe 3 was born in 1970 (hereafter, collectively plaintiffs). In 1977, plaintiffs lived with their mother and older brothers in California. John Doe 1, John Doe 2, and their mother were baptized as members of the Mormon Church in the same year. The family then became members of a ward (congregation) of the Mormon Church. John Doe 3 was baptized later, in 1978.

As the plaintiffs reached the proper age, they became members of the ward's Boy Scout troop. The troop leader, Bill Knox, was a single male approximately 34 or 35 years old. In 1977 or 1978, Knox and plaintiffs' mother were members of the Mormon Church's Special Interest singles program, which encouraged marriage among its members. The Mormon Church also "assigned Bill Knox to 'befriend' Plaintiffs' mother" and he also "befriended" plaintiffs shortly after meeting them. Additionally, Knox was appointed "Single Adult Leader" to plaintiffs' mother and "Senior Home Teacher Companion" to plaintiffs and their family, although the church knew or should have known of Knox's "pedophilia activities." He also began to date plaintiffs' mother.

According to plaintiffs, "Knox used his position within the Mormon Church and Boy Scouts to encourage Plaintiffs to know about the Mormon Church and to become good members so that he could gain Plaintiffs' trust, admiration, friendship and obedience." After gaining plaintiffs' trust, Knox "entice[d]" them to individual " 'sleepovers' " at his apartment. During the sleepovers, Knox sexually molested plaintiffs. He first molested John Doe 1 in 1977 and later molested John Doe 2 and John Doe 3 in 1978. Knox sexually abused them "in the context of Scouting events" and in buildings and locations owned or operated by the Mormon Church and the Boy Scouts.

Knox married plaintiffs' mother in 1979. After moving into plaintiffs' home, Knox's sexual abuse escalated. Among other things, Knox sexually abused plaintiffs during trips between their home and Boy Scout activities and during Boy Scout camping trips. In 1980, Knox "was 'called' by the Mormon Church to become the Scoutmaster of the Boys Scouts of America Troop for the Ward."

In 1982, plaintiffs began repeatedly informing the Mormon Church and the Boy Scouts that Knox was sexually abusing them. Knox stopped sexually abusing John Doe 1 during 1982. He did not stop sexually abusing John Doe 2 until 1986, and in 1987 he stopped sexually abusing John Doe 3. As a result of the sexual abuse, plaintiffs began to suffer mental, psychological, and emotional problems.

In December 2008, plaintiffs learned that Knox was going to move near the homes of John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 in another state. This caused them to openly discuss Knox's sexual abuse with family members and to realize for the first time that their current physical, psychological and emotional injuries were caused by the sexual abuse. Plaintiffs' delayed discovery of the cause of their injuries was due to their young age at the time of the sexual abuse and their trust in Knox, as well as their manipulation by the Mormon Church and Boy Scouts.

III. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

A. The Complaint

Plaintiffs filed their original complaint on November 2, 2009, and their first amended complaint on November 16, 2009.*fn5 The Boy Scouts demurred to the first amended complaint on the ground that all causes of action were time-barred under section 340.1, since plaintiffs had not filed their complaint before the age of 26. The trial court agreed in its October 29, 2010 order that plaintiffs had not met the filing deadline, but sustained the demurrers with leave to amend to allow plaintiffs to "include the applicability of legal doctrines that would defeat the statute of limitations defense that currently appears on the face of the first amended complaint."

Plaintiffs then filed a second amended complaint, which is the currently operative pleading. The causes of action alleged against the Boy Scouts include negligence (failure to investigate), negligence per se, vicarious liability for sexual battery, vicarious liability for assault, direct and vicarious liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress, premises liability, negligence (failure to warn), constructive fraud, and "institutional constructive fraud."

B. The Boy Scouts' Demurrer

The Boy Scouts filed a demurrer to the second amended complaint (hereafter, the complaint) on December 10, 2010. In their points and authorities, they argued that the face of the complaint showed that all causes of action were time-barred under section 340.1, subdivision (b)(1) because the complaint was filed after the plaintiffs' 26th birthday and insufficient facts had been alleged to show that defendants should be estopped from relying on the statute of limitations.

The Boy Scouts also argued that to the extent plaintiffs had attempted to avoid the bar of section 340.1, subdivision (b)(1) by alleging that the Boy Scouts were perpetrators to whom the delayed discovery provision of section 340.1, subdivision (a)(1) applied, the allegations were insufficient.

Alternatively, the Boy Scouts asserted that subdivision (a)(1) of section 340.1 was inapplicable because that subdivision expressly applies only to a "person," while subdivision (b)(1) of section 340.1, which bars certain actions after the plaintiff's 26th birthday, expressly applies to a "person or entity." The Boy Scouts maintained that the legislative history for section 340.1 showed that the Legislature did not intend the delayed discovery provision of section 340.1, subdivision (a)(1) ...


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