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Doe v. Boy Scouts of America

United States District Court, D. Idaho

November 20, 2017

JOHN DOE I-XIX and JOHN ELLIOTT, Plaintiffs,
v.
BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA, a congressionally chartered corporation authorized to do business in Idaho; CORPORATION OF THE PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS, a foreign corporation sole registered to do business in Idaho; and CORPORATION OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS AND SUCCESSORS, a foreign corporation registered to business in Idaho, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER FILED UNDER SEAL

          B. Lynn Winmill Chief Judge.

         INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court is the LDS Church Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment Against John Doe XII (Dkt. 183) and Motion to Seal (Dkt. 182). Also pending before the Court is Doe XII's Motion to Seal (Dkt. 202). Briefing on summary judgment was completed on June 22, 2017. The Court heard oral argument on June 27, 2017 and took the matter under advisement. For the reasons described below, the Court will deny the Church Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. The parties' respective Motions to Seal are granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff John Doe XII participated in a Scout troop sponsored by the Nampa 2nd Ward of the LDS Church. Def. 's Br. at 2, Dkt. 183-1. In 1974, when Doe XII was twelve, his scoutmaster, Larren Arnold, sexually abused him on two separate occasions. PL 's Statement of Facts ¶ 4, Dkt. 203-1. In May 2001, Doe XII contacted the Church Defendants regarding the abuse he suffered as a child, and asked for recompense. Def. 's Br. at 3, Dkt. 183-1. Doe XII sent a follow-up letter in June, asking for a response, and at some time later he spoke on the phone with attorneys for the Church. Id. at 3, 5.

         Following this phone call, Doe XII met in person with an attorney for the Church, and signed a "Settlement Agreement and Release of All Claims" (the "Agreement"). Id. at 5. The Agreement contained a clause releasing the Church Defendants "from any and all past, present or future claims, whether for direct or for vicarious liability, for damages for personal and other injuries, and contract claims, which the Releasor has, or claims to have, for or in any manner arising out of the abuse he suffered. WoodardDecl. Ex. G ¶ 2, Dkt. 183-9.

         Also during 2001, Doe XII contacted attorney Tim Kosnoff about the potential for a lawsuit against the Church Defendants. See WoodardDecl. Ex. F at 197:22-25, Dkt. 183-8. Based on his conversation with Mr. Kosnoff, Doe XII believed his case had "great potential" but knew that Mr. Kosnoff was concerned there might be an issue with the statute of limitations. Id. at 225:16-22, 226:19-25. This conversation happened prior to Doe XII's meeting with the representative from the Church Defendants, at which he signed the release. Id. at 227:3-9.

         During 2007, Doe XII was briefly represented by the law firm Chasan & Walton. Chasan Decl. ¶ 2, Dkt. 203-2. In July 2009, Chasan & Walton were retained as local counsel in Tom Doe v. Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a case which alleged fraud by the Church Defendants in relation to sexual abuse perpetrated by Larren Arnold. PL 's Statement of Facts ¶ 11, Dkt. 203-1.

         In February 2014, Doe XII joined this lawsuit, alleging that the Church Defendants made fraudulent misrepresentations about the safety of Scouting, upon which Doe XII relied in deciding to participate in Boy Scouts. Second Am. Compl. ¶ 101-02, Dkt. 47. Doe XII further alleged that, as a result of the Church Defendants' constructive fraud, Doe XII incurred both physical and emotional damages. Id. ¶ 115.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate where a party can show that, as to any claim or defense, "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). It is "not a disfavored procedural shortcut, " but is instead the "principal tool[ ] by which factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant unwarranted consumption of public and private resources." Id. at 327. "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). There must be a genuine dispute as to any material fact - a fact "that may affect the outcome of the case." Id. at 248.

         The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the Court must not make credibility findings. Id. at 255. Direct testimony of the non-movant must be believed, however implausible. Leslie v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir. 1999). On the other hand, the Court is not required to adopt unreasonable inferences from circumstantial evidence. McLaughlin v. Liu, 849 F.2d 1205, 1208 (9th Cir. 1988).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute as to material fact. Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2001)(en banc). To carry this burden, the moving party need not introduce any affirmative evidence (such as affidavits or deposition excerpts) but may simply point out the absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 532 (9th Cir.2000).

         This shifts the burden to the non-moving party to produce evidence sufficient to support a jury verdict in her favor. Deveraux, 263 F.3d at 1076. The non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and show "by her [ ] affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file" that a genuine dispute of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.

         ANALYSIS

         1. Choice of Law

         A federal district court exercising diversity jurisdiction must apply the procedural law, including statutes of limitations, of the forum state. See Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938); see also Guaranty Trust v. York, 326 U.S. 99, 110 (1945. In deciding what substantive law applies, the court must look to the choice-of-law rules of the forum state. York, 326 U.S. at 110. As Idaho is the forum state, both the statute of limitations and the choice-of-law rules are governed by Idaho law.

         To determine the validity of a contract and the substantive rights of the parties to the contract, Idaho choice-of-law rules look first to the law of the state contemplated by the parties. See Carroll v. MBNA America Bank, 220 P.3d 1080, 1084 (Idaho 2009). So long as the chosen state has a substantial relationship to the parties or the transaction and no other state has a more significant relationship and greater interest in determination of the issues, courts should apply the law of the chosen state. Id. at 1084-85 (citing Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws §§ 187-88). Per the express language of the Agreement, the parties selected Utah law to govern the substance and validity of the contract at issue. See WoodardDecl. Ex. G ¶ 7, Dkt. 183-9. Moreover, there is a substantial relationship between Utah law, the parties, and the agreement, which is not outweighed by any other state. Doe XII was living in Utah at the time he signed the Agreement, the offices of the LDS Church Defendants are located in Utah, and the agreement was signed in Utah. See Def's Br. at 5 ¶ 15, Dkt. 183-1; Woodard Decl. Ex. G at 2, Dkt 183-9. Thus, the validity and scope of the agreement must be analyzed under Utah law.

         2. Application of the Agreement to Doe XII's ...


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