Special Litigation Counsel Joseph Sauer and Brandon Berkowski prevailed on three separate CVA cases. Joe’s cases were filed against a school district chartered by the state to provide educational services to a residential treatment center run by a separate nonprofit organization, and Brandon’s case was filed against a camp located in a community center.
In each case, Joe filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the school district was not liable for incidents the plaintiffs claimed occurred at the residential facility by employees of the residential facility in 1978 and 1982 when they were in their early teens. Joe argued that the school district leased space on the treatment center’s campus and had no duty to supervise or protect students once they left school grounds and returned to the residential facility. Likewise, Joe established that the school did not provide staffing for the residential facility and was not responsible for negligent hiring and retention of non-school employees. The Westchester County Supreme Court agreed and dismissed both cases against the school district. The case is still pending against the nonprofit.
In Brandon’s case, the plaintiff alleged that in the 1980s, he was abused by a counselor who worked at a camp located at the community center and, in the case, asserted multiple causes of action, including a social services law claim of failing to report abuse.
Early in the case, Brandon used his deep understanding of the law to file a motion to dismiss the cause of action on the grounds that the statutory duty to report suspected abuse only applies when the suspected abuser has custodial care over the plaintiff. He successfully argued that, in this case, the camp counselor accused of abuse did not have sufficient contact with the plaintiff to meet the threshold for custodial care.
While the other causes of action are still being litigated, the court issued a detailed decision on this narrow Social Services Law issue that will be helpful to other defendants facing these types of claims.