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Does v. Boy Scouts of America

United States District Court, D. Idaho

May 14, 2019

JOHN DOES 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 do business in Idaho, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. LYNN WINMILL U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         The Court has before it the Church's motion to clarify the Court's ruling on its omnibus motion for summary judgment, the Church's motion to exclude evidence or argument of religious facts based on the First Amendment, and the Church's motion to exclude evidence that Larren Arnold was not subject to discipline by the Church. The motions are fully briefed and at issue. For the reasons expressed below, the Court will (1) grant in part and deny in part the motion to clarify, (2) deny the motion to exclude evidence of religious facts, and (3) deny the motion to exclude regarding Arnold.

         ANALYSIS

         Motion to Clarify

         The Church asks the Court to clarify whether it intended to grant or deny the Church's omnibus motion for summary judgment as to Doe XII. The Church's omnibus motion was directed at Does I, II, V, and XII. Two of those plaintiffs - Doe II and Doe V - were also subjects of separate motions for summary judgment filed by the Church. Plaintiffs responded to the omnibus motion only on behalf of Doe II and Doe V - Plaintiffs did not respond as to Doe XII. The plaintiffs now explain that as an oversight.

         The Court issued a single Memorandum Decision and Order addressing the Church's omnibus motion as well as its individual motions against Doe II and Doe V. But in the Memorandum Decision itself, the Court did not analyze the arguments made in the omnibus motion - other than a brief reference to the motion - and specifically did not address the Church's arguments against Doe XII. Nevertheless, in the Order section, the Court stated that “[t]he Church Defendants' Omnibus Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 282) and their individual Motions for Summary Judgment against Doe II (Dkt. 283) and Doe V (Dkt. 284) are GRANTED.”

         The Church asks the Court to clarify whether it meant that the Church's entire omnibus motion - that included a request that Doe XII's action be dismissed - was granted or whether the omnibus motion was just granted as to Doe II and Doe V. It was the latter. The Court may have overlooked the omnibus motion's references to Doe XII because plaintiffs only responded as to Doe II and Doe V and did not respond as to Doe XII. At any rate, the Court did not intend to grant summary judgment as to Doe XII. The Church asks that the Court now address its arguments related to Doe XII, and the Court will do so below.

         In their omnibus motion, the Church argues that Doe XII cannot prove a fiduciary or confidential relationship because Church membership does not create a fiduciary or confidential relationship, even if the parishioner is ultra-devoted. The Court resolved this issue in Tom Doe v. Presiding Bishop, 2012 WL 3782454 (D.Id. Aug. 31, 2012):

Idaho courts have not decided whether a church, as an organization, owes a fiduciary duty to its members. But other jurisdictions have considered whether a member may have a confidential relationship with the Church. Two key themes emerge from these cases. First, a fiduciary relationship is more likely to arise between a child and a church than between an adult and a church. . . . Second, many courts appear to follow what this Court will characterize as a parishioner-plus rule. These cases hold, in essence, that a fiduciary relationship does not arise between the church and all parishioners generally. Instead, a parishioner plaintiff must submit facts demonstrating that his relationship with the church differed from other general parishioners' relationship with the church. . . . So a blanket rule barring a confidential relationship between a church and a parishioner would not arise in Idaho . . . . Rather, Idaho law requires that the Court examine the particulars of Doe and the Church Defendants' relationship to determine whether a jury could reasonably find that a special relationship of trust and confidence existed between Doe and the Church.

Id. at *8. The Court can find no reason to reconsider that ruling and therefore refuses to adopt the Church's argument seeking a blanket rule that no onfidential relationship could arise between a church and a parishioner.

         The Church argues next that even if the “parishioner-plus” rule applies, Doe XII cannot prove that he had a relationship with the Church that created a fiduciary or confidential relationship under the facts of this case. The Tom Doe decision is again instructive because the facts are so similar, including the fact that the abuser in that case - Larren Arnold - was the same Scout leader who abused Doe XII. In Tom Doe, the Court held that

[f]our key facts operate in Doe's favor: (1) he was a minor child when he was allegedly abused by Arnold; (2) he was an active and regular participant in camping trips and other activities provided through a Church-sponsored organization; (3) he was strongly encouraged by the Church to participate in those camping trips and activities; and (4) the Church allegedly knew of the specific danger that Arnold posed. Also, the Church taught Doe to respect and trust his Church and Scout youth leaders. And presumably, Doe's parents trusted Arnold enough, in his role as a Church and Scout leader, to allow him to take Doe on overnight camping trips and individual day trips. On these scouting trips, Doe's parents entrusted Arnold to ensure Doe's safety and act as his caretaker. . . . Based on these facts . . . a jury could find that the Church occupied a superior position of influence and authority over Doe, who in turn reposed trust and confidence in the Church.

Id. at *10. The same facts exist with regard to Doe XII and thus the Court will follow Tom Doe in rejecting this portion of ...


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