Phifer Pinkham succeeds on summary judgment in favor of non-profit

Jenifer M. Pinkham and Diane M. Kildea successfully drafted and argued for summary judgment in favor of a local non-profit ballet school against claims brought by a dancer who alleged she was sexually assaulted by her ballet instructor during an international dance competition. As the accused ballet instructor was an executive director of the non-profit at the time of the alleged assaults, the dancer claimed the non-profit was vicariously liable for the intentional torts of its employee in addition to its liability for its own alleged negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. Pinkham and Kildea successfully argued that the non-profit could not be held vicariously liable for the acts of its employee because the allegations of sexual assault were outside the scope of his employment. Further, they emphasized facts showing the non-profit did not sponsor the dance competition or pay for either the dancer or the ballet instructor to attend negating the claim that the non-profit in any way ratified the ballet instructor’s alleged acts.

Pinkham and Kildea were also successful in arguing that the non-profit was not negligent because it did not owe any duty to the dancer while she was at an unrelated dance competition and that no special relationship existed between her and the non-profit. The court recognized that although the dancer took classes at the non-profit and participated in shows, no special relationship existed to create a duty of care. The facts showed that the dancer was an adult who voluntarily traveled to an unrelated dance competition using her own financial resources and, therefore, the non-profit could not reasonably foresee that it would have any affirmative action to protect her during that time. Finally, the court agreed with Pinkham and Kildea that the dancer failed to provide any evidence that the non-profit owed her a fiduciary duty by operation of law or as a result of their interactions.

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