Jane D.W. DOE, Plaintiff Below, Appellant,
The STATE of Delaware, Defendant Below, Appellee.
Submitted: July 3, 2013.
Reargument Denied Oct. 8, 2013.
Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware, in and for New Castle County, C.A. No. N10C-08-178.
Upon appeal from the Superior Court. REVERSED and REMANDED.
Edmund Daniel Lyons, Esquire, (argued), The Lyons Law Firm, Wilmington, Delaware, for Appellant.
Michael F. McTaggart, Esquire, (argued), and Marc P. Niedzielski, Esquire, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, for Appellee.
Before HOLLAND, BERGER, JACOBS and RIDGELY, Justices and NOBLE, Vice Chancellor,[*] constituting the Court en Banc.
In this appeal we consider whether the State of Delaware may be held liable for tortious conduct by an on-duty Delaware State Police Officer. The officer was supposed to be taking a woman accused of shop-lifting to court. Instead, the officer allegedly coerced the woman to engage in oral sex in the front seat of the police car. The trial court granted summary judgment to the State based on its conclusion that no reasonable jury could find that the officer was acting within the scope of his employment. The trial court focused only on the officer's tortious conduct, which obviously was not within his job description. But the nature of the tortious conduct is not dispositive. There are other factors used to determine whether one is acting within the scope of employment, and the jury must make that decision.
Factual and Procedural Background
On March 19, 2009, a security employee at the JC Penney store in the Christiana Mall stopped Jane D.W. Doe for shoplifting. Doe had been arrested before, and she was subject to an outstanding capias. After about 45 minutes, Delaware State Police Officer Joshua Giddings arrived at the store and took Doe into custody. He placed her in the rear of his police car and drove to several locations in the mall parking lot. Doe alleges that, at the third location, Giddings stopped, got out of the police car, opened the rear door, and placed Doe's hands on his genitals.
According to Doe, Giddings then drove to a remote area where he told her that he would let her go home if she did something in return. Giddings allegedly told Doe that, unless she acceded to his demands, he would take her to court, where bail would be set, and that she would have to spend the weekend in jail. The prospect of jail allegedly coerced Doe to perform oral sex on Giddings in the front seat of the police car. Afterwards, Giddings drove Doe home and told her to turn herself in on the capias. Doe reported the incident to Delaware State Police Sergeant Maher, who investigated and eventually arrested Giddings on charges of sexual misconduct, bribery and official misconduct. Giddings killed himself shortly after his arrest.
Doe filed suit against the State of Delaware and Giddings' estate alleging that Giddings' conduct constituted assault, battery and rape. She alleges that the Delaware State Police is an agency of the State of Delaware and that Giddings was acting under his authority as a State Trooper. Doe ...