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Virginia: Special Cases – A Lawyer’s Abuse

Virginia: Special Cases – A Lawyer’s Abuse

On August 15, 2019, the Virginia Supreme Court held that a victim stated legally viable claims for personal injury damages against church defendants for criminal sexual abuse perpetrated by church defendants’ deacon, youth leader and drill team coach. A.H. v. Church of God in Christ, No. 180520. Notably, A.H. was presaged by and relied upon my 1997 Doe v. Bruton Parish Church, 42 Va. Cir. 467 (Williamsburg Jul. 10, 1997), with it being rare that the Virginia Supreme Court relies on [lower] Circuit Court decisions as authority. A.H. also relied upon my 2012 Virginia Supreme Court case, Burns v. Gagnon, 283 Va. 657 (2012). See, No. 180520 at 8, 12-13.

In A.H., the Virginia Supreme Court found the Plaintiff sexual abuse victim’s negligence allegations against church Defendants for compensatory damages sufficient under the special-relationship theory of direct tort liability, id. at 17, 29; and stated a prima facie case of vicarious liability under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Id. at 25-26, 29. A.H. also held that legally cognizable claims for negligent hiring and negligent retention were not pleaded sufficiently, and Justice McClanahan concurred in part (on respondeat superior theory) but dissented in part (of special custodial relationship theory).