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Gibson v. Brewer
952 S.W.2d 239, Mo.banc, MO, 08/29/1997
Category Victim v. Perpetrator; Victim v. Third Party 
Topic Special Victims; Religious Organizations 
Filename Child Victims;  
Crime Child Sexual Assault 
Location Church Premises 
Prevailing Party Plaintiff (in part) 
Other Parties Catholic Chancery -Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph 
Holding

Statement of Facts: Father Michael Brewer sexually abused Michael Gibson. Michael and his parents sued Brewer and his employer, the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph ("Diocese"), alleging battery, negligent hiring/ ordination/retention, negligent failure to supervise, negligent infliction of emotional distress ("NIED"), intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"), breach of fiduciary duty, conspiracy, agency liability, and negligence. The trial court dismissed all of the counts against the Diocese and all of the counts against Brewer except the battery, NIED and IIED claims. The Gibsons appealed and Brewer cross-appealed the trial court's failure to dismiss the remaining counts. Holding: The Supreme Court of Missouri dismissed the appeal and cross-appeal involving Brewer's liability, reversed the dismissal of the claim of intentional failure to supervise against the Diocese, and affirmed the remainder of the judgment dismissing the other counts against the Diocese. Regarding the Gibsons' claims against the Diocese, the Court concluded that (1) the breach of fiduciary duty count did not comply with the basic pleading rules; (2) the civil conspiracy allegations did not support the inference of a "meeting of the minds"; (3) intentional sexual misconduct and IIED are not within the scope of employment of a priest, for purposes of imposing respondeat superior/agency liability; (4) questions of hiring, ordaining, and retaining clergy involve the interpretation of religious doctrine, policy, and administration, such that a court's inquiry into same would violate the First Amendment; (5) adjudicating the reasonableness of a church's supervision of cleric would violate the First Amendment; (6) to determine whether the Diocese's responses to its members' claims were "reasonable" would offend the First Amendment; (7) the Gibsons failed to state a claim for IIED; and (8) to determine how a "reasonably prudent Diocese" would act would offend the First Amendment. Thus, the trial court did not err in dismissing the breach of fiduciary duty, conspiracy, respondeat superior/agency, negligent hiring/ordination/retention of clergy, negligent failure to supervise clergy, NIED, IIED and independent negligence counts against the Diocese. However, the Court concluded that recognizing the tort of intentional failure to supervise clergy would not offend the First Amendment, since religious conduct intended or certain to cause harm need not be tolerated under the First Amendment. Since the Gibsons alleged that the Diocese knew that harm was certain or substantially certain to result from its failure to supervise Brewer, they stated a cause of action for intentional failure to supervise clergy. 


Damage Award Not tried 
Victim's Counsel     
Plaintiff's Counsel Sylvester James, Jr., Nancy E. Kinner, Kansas City 
Plaintiff's Expert      
Defense Counsel James R. Wyrsch, Michael P. Joyce, Kansas City 
Defense Expert

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