Schick Order Decreases Liability of Tri-Valley Elementary, School District and Board of Education
But District Still Faces Claim That It Breached Statutory Obligation To Report Suspected Abuse
Monticello - State Supreme Court Justice Stephan Schick today threw out the first three counts of a complaint in a long-running child victims act sex abuse case involving former Tri-Valley schools teacher Donald Wales, holding in part that Tri-Valley can't be held liable for the negligent hiring, retention and supervision of Wales.
The case, filed on October 31, 2019, is Mark Dolgas vs Donald Wales, Tri-Valley Elementary School, Tri-Valley Central School District and the Tri-Valley Board of Education. It is one of two pending lawsuits filed against Wales and the school /district/ tied to allegations of abuse that date back to the 1980s.
Schick also ordered that another count - alleging that the elementary school and the district violated Title IX - was also tossed out.
The judge, who has lived for many years in the town where the school district is located, also ordered that Count VIII be dismissed, which alleged that Tri-Valley failed to "provide reasonable safety and care of student in their control and custody..."
In a court filing from January, Hugh Sandler, the attorney for Dolgas wrote: "It was reasonably foreseeable to Tri-Valley that its employee, Defendant Donald Wales, would sexually abuse its students (including plaintiff) to whom Tri-Valley owed a duty of care." (See story below).
Although Tri-Valley succeeded in having some counts removed, the district still faces one significant count at trial (scheduled for September) : that school officials breached their statutory duty to report suspicious sexual abuse under New York's social services law.
Under that law, schools are obligated to report when they have" reasonable cause to suspect that a child coming before them in their professional or official capacity is an abused or maltreated child."
On this issue, Schick, rendered summary judgement in favor of the plaintiff.
"From the facts known to Tri-Valley, they had reasonable cause to believe that someone in the familial setting, even if only through inadvertence or neglect, allowed Wales access to the child victims, thereby allowing sexual abuse to be committed. Accordingly, Tri-Valley had reasonable cause to believe that the child victims were abused children and they were statutorily required to report that abuse within 48 hours of learning the information."
Schick's decision said that although school officials would not have been liable for not making a call to a hotline to report the abuse, "they are certainly liable for their failure to make it within 48 hours of May 30, 1984."
Meanwhile, both the district and the plaintiff in the Dolgas case are in preliminary talks to enter mediation, as previously reported by The SullivanTimes last week.
The pair of Child Victims Act (CVA) cases against Tri-Valley / Donald Wales are part of a series of local lawsuits that were filed under a new New York State law that took effect in August 2019.
Other local CVA lawsuits include multiple cases were the Greater New York Councils, Boy Scouts of America, which owns Ten Mile River scout camps in Narrowsburg, and one against Camp Agudah in Liberty.
A copy of the decision and order in the Dolgas case is below.
(THIS IS A DEVELOPING STORY)