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Doe v. The Citadel

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

August 2, 2017

John Doe 2, Appellant,
v.
The Citadel, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2015-001505

          Heard May 9, 2017

         Appeal From Charleston County R. Markley Dennis, Jr., Circuit Court Judge

          William Mullins McLeod, Jr., and Jacqueline LaPan Edgerton, both of McLeod Law Group, LLC, of Charleston, for Appellant.

          M. Dawes Cooke, Jr., Randell Croft Stoney, Jr., and John William Fletcher, all of Barnwell Whaley Patterson & Helms, LLC, of Charleston, for Respondent.

          WILLIAMS, J.

         In this civil matter, John Doe 2 (Doe) appeals the circuit court's grant of summary judgment to The Citadel, arguing the court erred in dismissing his claims of negligence/gross negligence and outrage. We affirm.

         FACTS/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This case is one of many lawsuits stemming from a child sexual abuse scandal involving a summer camp at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina (The Citadel), and Louis "Skip" ReVille. On April 23, 2007, the father of a former camper at The Citadel's youth summer camp notified Mark Brandenburg, The Citadel's general counsel, that one of the camp's counselors had engaged in sexual misconduct at the camp with his son five years earlier. The former camper's father told Brandenburg a counselor named Skip invited his son into his dorm room, where the two watched pornography together and masturbated. Brandenburg subsequently spoke by telephone with the former camper, then nineteen years old, who confirmed that Skip had invited him into his room, showed him pornography, and convinced him to masturbate. After reviewing camp records, Brandenburg was able to identify the counselor as ReVille, who worked at the camp for three summers from 2001 to 2003.

         On April 24, 2007, Brandenburg-along with Colonel Joseph Trez, an executive assistant to John Rosa, The Citadel's president-met with ReVille, a Citadel graduate who had also worked with college students as a part-time, temporary tutor at The Citadel's writing center from August 2006 to April 20, 2007.[1] During the meeting, ReVille emphatically denied the former camper's allegations. Brandenburg continued to investigate the allegations from April through July 2007, and by May 2007, had informed President Rosa of the allegations. On July 1, 2007, Brandenburg traveled to Texas to meet with the former camper and his parents to discuss a possible settlement of potential claims against The Citadel. At some point during that summer, however, Brandenburg fell out of touch with the former camper. Brandenburg then contacted potential witnesses who may have been present during the commission of ReVille's alleged misconduct, but he failed to find one that could corroborate the former camper's accusations. The Citadel ended its investigation without reporting the complaint to law enforcement.[2]

         In October 2011, ReVille was arrested after confessing to abusing numerous boys while employed in various educational and athletic positions in the Charleston area over the span of nearly a decade. On June 13, 2012, ReVille pleaded guilty to numerous charges involving the abuse of twenty-three boys in Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester counties and was sentenced to fifty years in prison.

         ReVille met Doe-a young male about to enter the seventh grade-and his family in the summer of 2005, through ReVille's involvement with AAU basketball at Pinewood Preparatory School (Pinewood Prep) in Summerville, South Carolina. That summer, ReVille began "grooming" Doe and later abused Doe at ReVille's residence, and he continued to abuse Doe throughout the 2005-2006 school year. At the time, ReVille was a teacher at Pinewood Prep. Doe, however, neither attended Pinewood Prep nor any summer camps or educational programs at The Citadel. In the spring of 2006, ReVille was terminated from his teaching position at Pinewood Prep and accepted Doe's parents' offer to move into the mother-in-law suite connected to their house. While living there from May 2006 to June 2007, and for a short period after moving out, ReVille continuously abused Doe, although, according to ReVille, the abuse scaled back "tremendously" after ReVille's April 2007 meeting with Brandenburg. ReVille's sexual abuse of Doe ended when Doe and his family moved to Georgia in the summer of 2007.

         Doe filed the instant action against The Citadel on March 19, 2012, alleging claims of negligence/gross negligence and outrage. In his complaint, Doe claimed actions taken by The Citadel created a risk that ReVille would be placed in positions to enable him to victimize young boys, and subsequently, its failure to prevent this risk allowed ReVille to sexually abuse him. Doe asserted The Citadel was in a unique position to warn or prevent ReVille from sexually abusing young victims like Doe because The Citadel knew of the reported sexual abuse and it had a special relationship with ReVille. The Citadel filed a renewed motion for summary judgment on April 24, 2015.[3] After conducting a hearing, the circuit court granted The Citadel's motion on July 6, 2015.

         In its order, the circuit court dismissed Doe's negligence claims because it found The Citadel did not owe Doe a duty of care to prevent ReVille from sexually abusing Doe. Specifically, the court noted the majority of the abuse of Doe occurred before the April 2007 allegations by the former camper. Moreover, the circuit court found it was "impossible to differentiate the injury that [Doe] suffered after The Citadel arguably should have stopped ReVille from abusing him from the unquestionably devastating injury that [Doe] suffered from his longstanding, ongoing abuse by ReVille." Accordingly, the court concluded Doe's injuries arose before, and were not proximately caused by, any breach of duty by The Citadel. The court also dismissed the outrage claim as a matter of law because it was barred by the South Carolina Tort Claims Act[4] (TCA) and alternatively found no evidence suggested The Citadel directed any conduct toward Doe. This appeal followed.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "An appellate court reviews a grant of summary judgment under the same standard applied by the [circuit] court pursuant to Rule 56, SCRCP." Lanham v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of S.C., Inc., 349 S.C. 356, 361, 563 S.E.2d 331, 333 (2002). Summary judgment shall be granted when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that . . . no genuine issue [exists] as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Rule 56(c), SCRCP. When determining whether triable issues of material fact exist, the court must view the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Fleming v. Rose, 350 S.C. 488, 493-94, 567 S.E.2d 857, 860 (2002). When the preponderance of the evidence standard applies, the nonmoving party is only required to submit a mere scintilla of evidence to withstand a motion for summary judgment. Hancock v. Mid-South Mgmt. Co., 381 S.C. 326, 330, 673 S.E.2d 801, 803 (2009).

         LAW/ANALYSIS

         I. Negligence/Gross Negligence

         Doe first argues the circuit court erred in finding The Citadel did not ...


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