In a high-profile case, a New Jersey judge has ruled that the parents of a former student at an esteemed private school cannot sue the school for damages related to an inappropriate sexual relationship between the student and a teacher.
Specifically, the Essex County Superior Court judge declared that the mother and father of an ex-student at the Morristown-Beard School cannot file a lawsuit against the school, the teacher or anyone else associated with the case. As a result, the judge dismissed the civil suit in which the parents sought monetary compensation.
The female student reportedly became involved in a sexual relationship with one of her teachers during 2012, the girl’s senior year at the prep school. According to legal briefs, the school administration received numerous reports about allegedly inappropriate sexual contact between the teacher and the student. At least one of the sexual encounters reportedly occurred on a school trip to Greece, during which the teacher served as a chaperone for several young students.
When rumors about the sexual relationship began to circulate at the prep school, the student stopped coming to campus. She finished her senior year, and graduated, without returning to school.
Although the relationship between the student and the teacher was deemed inappropriate, it did not give rise to criminal charges for sexual assault or any other sex crime under NJ law.
Civil Litigation against the Prep School
Shortly after the student turned 18, her parents filed a lawsuit against the prep school. The teacher, later fired by school administrators because of the alleged sexual relationship, was also named in the lawsuit. The parents claimed that the school was legally liable for causing emotional distress. Other causes of action in the civil suit included negligence, fraud and breach of contract because the school allegedly violated its duty to keep the student safe and free from harm.
Now an Essex County Superior Court judge has dismissed the parents’ lawsuit. Interestingly, the NJ judge’s decision seems to have turned on a procedural issue: since the alleged victim in the case is now an adult, the parents were found to no longer have standing to sue on her behalf. Although the judge’s ruling presumably leaves the door open for the ex-student to file a lawsuit of her own, it seems unlikely at this point because she is reportedly estranged from her parents and is currently living in Israel.
The potentially precedent-setting case could have a major impact on school-related civil suits in NJ going forward. One of the attorneys representing the school in this case observed that the New Jersey judge’s ruling “will likely become the standard for such claims” throughout the state.
Meanwhile, the parents are reportedly considering their legal options and deciding whether they want to appeal the ruling.
To learn more about this recent New Jersey court ruling, read the NJ.com article, “Parents Can’t Sue Prep School over Alleged Teacher-Student Relationship Rules.”
If you or a loved one has been accused of a sexual offense in New Jersey, or if you need to pursue civil litigation, the aggressive criminal defense and personal injury lawyers at Rudnick, Addonizio, Pappa & Casazza PC can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation about your case.