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Doe v. Hansen

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

May 15, 2018

JOHN DOE, as Next Friend of JAMES DOE, on behalf of himself and 77 other similarly situated individual minors, Plaintiffs,
v.
MATTHEW M. HANSEN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN A. ROSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on District Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. Ill) and Plaintiffs' Renewed Motion for Default Judgment and Statutory Damages Under Count I of the Second Amended Complaint, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment Under Count I of the Second Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 114). The motions are fully briefed and ready for disposition. For the following reasons, the District Defendants' motion will be granted and Plaintiffs' motion will be denied.

         I. Background

         On April 22, 2016, Plaintiff filed this action against the Fort Zumwalt R-II School District (the "District") and Matthew M. Hansen ("Hansen"), a former District teacher, in his individual and official capacities, on behalf of a putative class of current and former students who were unknowingly videotaped in the nude by Hansen while attending a summer camp sponsored and supervised by the District between 2007 and 2011. Plaintiff asserted claims under the Child Abuse Victims Rights Act of 1986, 18 U.S.C. § 2255 ("CAVRA")[1] and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as state law claims for invasion of privacy and negligent supervision (Doc. No. 1). The District filed its Answer on May 17, 2016. As to Count I, alleging violations of CAVRA and directed against Hansen only, the District denied each allegation "in the event that Plaintiff may seek to attribute such allegations ... to District Defendant under a theory of respondeat superior or any other theory of law." (Doc. No. 9 at ¶¶ 26-32).

         On May 31, 2016, this Court entered an Order and Judgment of Default against Hansen as to liability only. (Doc. No. 17)

         On August 5, 2016, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint, again asserting claims against the District and Hansen in his individual and official capacities (Doc. No. 26). On August 19, 2016, the District filed its Answer to the First Amended Complaint, denying each allegation of Count I, directed against Hansen only, "in the event that Plaintiff may seek to attribute such allegations... to District Defendant under a theory of respondeat superior or any other theory of law." (Doc. No. 32 at ¶¶ 26-32).

         On October 14, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint, which is the operative complaint, naming Hansen in his individual and official capacities, as well as seven current and former employees of the District[2] ("District Defendants") and a number of unknown John and Jane Doe Defendants employed as principals in charge of supervision at the camp, in their official capacities only. Notably, the District was not named as a defendant. (Doc. No. 46) Counts I (42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Violation of the Child Abuse Victims' Rights Act) and II (42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Violation of Right of Privacy) of the Second Amended Complaint are directed against Hansen only; Counts III, V, and VII (42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Violation of Fourteenth Amendment - Substantive Due Process, Failure to Supervise and Train) are directed against District officials (administrators, principals, and 5th grade teachers) for failure to supervise the showers at the camp and failure to train staff that no student was to leave the shower area for dressing or undressing.[3]

         The District Defendants filed their answer to the Second Amended Complaint on October 28, 2016, denying each allegation of Count I, directed against Hansen only, "in the event that Plaintiff may seek to attribute such allegations ... to District Defendants under a theory of respondeat superior or any other theory of law." (Doc. No. 56 at ¶¶ 46-52).

         On November 15, 2016, on Plaintiffs unopposed motion, this Court certified the class[4] as to Counts I and II of the Second Amended Complaint for the purpose of determining liability only. (Doc. No. 67) That same day, Plaintiffs dismissed with prejudice their claims against Hansen in his individual capacity only in Counts I and II. (Doc. No. 68) Plaintiffs then moved to enforce against the District the default judgment entered against Hansen under Count I for statutory damages of $150, 000.00 for each plaintiff under CAVRA, 18 U.S.C. § 2255(a), for a class judgment of $11, 700, 000.00, exclusive of costs and attorney's fees. The Court denied Plaintiffs' motion, clarifying that its Order and Judgment of Default was against Hansen in his individual capacity only and not enforceable against the District and the District Defendants. (Doc. No. 98)

         On January 31, 2018, the District Defendants moved for summary judgment on the grounds that a governmental entity such as a public school district cannot be held vicariously liable for its agent's acts under § 1983. Moreover, Plaintiffs cannot identify a governmental policy or custom that caused their alleged injuries or establish deliberate indifference by the District or conduct that "shocks the conscience." Lastly, District Defendants assert that Plaintiffs' claims in Count I fail because statutory liability under CAVRA is limited to claims against the actual abuser, not secondary entities such as the District.

         Plaintiffs have renewed their motion for default judgment against Hansen in his official capacity. Alternatively, Plaintiffs move for summary judgment on Count I on the grounds that Hansen's liability under 18 U.S.C. § 2251 entitles them to judgment against the District on their CAVRA claim.

         II. Legal standard

         "Summary judgment is proper where the evidence, when viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, indicates that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Davison v. City of Minneapolis, Minn., 490 F.3d 648, 654 (8th Cir. 2007); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Summary judgment is not appropriate if there are factual disputes that may affect the outcome of the case under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of material fact is genuine if the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. "The basic inquiry is whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Diesel Machinery, Inc. v. B.R. Lee Industries, Inc., 418 F.3d 820, 832 (8th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The moving party has the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. City of Mt. Pleasant. Iowa v. Associated Elec. Co-op., Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273 (8th Cir. 1988). If the movant does so, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party, who must set forth affirmative evidence and specific facts showing a genuine dispute on that issue. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).

         In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate in a particular case, the Court reviews the facts in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion and gives that party the benefit of any inferences that logically can be drawn from those facts. The Court is required to resolve all conflicts of evidence in favor of the nonmoving party. Osborn v. E.F. Hutton & Co., Inc., 853 F.2d 616, 619 (8th Cir. 1988). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court may not make credibility determinations, weigh the evidence, or draw inferences from the facts. Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011).

         III. Facts[5]

         The District is a Missouri public school district, organized and existing pursuant to Missouri law. Hansen was employed as a teacher at the District, and a camp counselor at the District's Outdoor Education Camp for fifth-grade students held at Cuivre River State Park, Missouri, from 2004 to 2012 ("the Camp"). The Camp is, and has been, exclusively staffed by District employees for the past thirty-five (35) years. It was the District's practice to assign one adult District teacher to each student cabin. An older student "camp counselor, " typically a high school A student, was also assigned to each cabin.[6] Camp counselors were relied upon to assist the teacher and report any improper behavior, should any occur. Hansen attended the Camp as a teacher for the District during the relevant years of 2007 through 2011, as well as other years.

         In 2013, Hansen pled guilty to child pornography related charges involving the video recording of minor students (fifth graders) while they attended the Camp during the periods 2007 through 2011. Hansen admitted using a hidden camera to video record students in the nude inside the cabins and did so without the knowledge of anyone from the District. The total number of victims is seventy-eight (78).

         The District had a number of policies in place from 2007 to 2011 that prohibited Hansen's conduct.[7] Specifically, the District's Audio and Visual Recording Policy KKB, adopted on June 30, 2008, stated that "[n]o recording equipment will be used or placed in areas of the building where the occupant would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as restroom facilities or locker rooms."

         The District's Staff Ethics Policy GBC, in effect since 1990, required Hansen, among other things, to "become familiar with, enforce and follow Board policies, regulations, and administrative procedures, other directions given by district administrators and state and federal laws as they affect the performance of job duties;" "maintain courteous and professional relationships with pupils . . . "; and further provides that "no employee may use his or her status as an employee to adversely influence a student of the district."

         Since June 21, 2010, the District has had in place a Staff/Student Relations Policy GBH, which requires, among other things, that "staff members are expected to maintain courteous and professional relationships with students" and are prohibited from "engaging in any conduct that violates Board policies, regulations or procedures [or] constitutes criminal behavior."

         The District also conducts criminal background checks on its employees and conducted a criminal background check on Hansen.

         It is undisputed that the District first learned about Hansen's illegal video recording after he was arrested in June 2012 and District officials were contacted by the police; however, Plaintiffs dispute that the District had no prior notice of Hansen's actions. The only evidence Plaintiffs present is by stipulation of the parties that in 2006, David Ring, a sixteen (16) year old A student "camp counselor, " walked into the cabin to which Hansen was assigned and observed him on the top bunk of one of the double bunk beds. Hansen acted startled and jumped out of the top bunk. There was a fifth-grade boy in the top bunk. (Doc. No. 123-1) Ring did not report what he had seen to District officials until after Hansen's arrest in 2012.

         IV. Discussion

         A. Plaintiffs' Renewed Motion ...


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