Court Permits Sexual Abuse Lawsuit to Go Forward on Negligent Hiring and Supervision Legal Theory

On March 8, 2012, the California Supreme Court released its decision in C.A., a Minor, v. William S. Hart Union High School District (2012) ___ Cal.4th ___, 138 Cal.Rptr.3d 1. The case involved a minor who was sexually abused by a guidance counselor over an eight-to-nine month period when he was 14 and 15 years of age. The court overturned the dismissal of the lawsuit by the trial court and court of appeal, ruling that school personnel owe a duty of care to protect students from foreseeable injury at hands of third parties, and that districts may be vicariously liable for negligent hiring and supervision of employees who commit sexual abuse. Because the case had been dismissed by the lower court at an early stage in the proceedings, the plaintiff still must prove that the District had knowledge of the counselor’s propensity for sexual abuse once the case returns to the trial court.