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Dunlap v. Phillips

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

July 9, 2015

KATELYNN BREANA DUNLAP, Plaintiff,
v.
VANCE C. PHILLIPS, Defendant.

Submitted: April 13, 2015

Upon Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment as to Liability. Denied.

Nicholas H. Rodriguez, Esquire and Brian Brittingham, Esquire of Schmittinger & Rodriguez, P.A., Dover, Delaware; attorneys for Plaintiff.

Kurt M. Heyman, Esquire and Melissa N. Donimirski, Esquire of Proctor Heyman LLP, Wilmington, Delaware; attorneys for Defendant.

ORDER

WILLIAM L. WITHAM, JR. RESIDENT JUDGE

Plaintiff filed a personal injury action with this Court alleging that Vance C. Phillips committed a wide range of offenses, including rape, sexual assault, battery, offensive touching, harassment, unlawful imprisonment, and mental harm. Plaintiff files her motion for Partial Summary Judgment as to liability based on Defendant's assertion of his Fifth Amendment right when giving testimony. For the forgoing reasons, the Plaintiff's motion is denied.

FACTS AND PROCEDURE

On November 12, 2014, Katelynn Breana Dunlap (hereinafter "Plaintiff") filed a motion for Partial Summary Judgment as to liability. Vance Phillips (hereinafter "Defendant") filed his opposition on December 18, 2014.[1] Plaintiff's complaint alleges that Defendant committed serious acts against the Plaintiff including but not limited to rape, harassment, unlawful imprisonment, battery, and mental harm.

Plaintiff details the beginning of her relationship with the Defendant as one of a mentor-mentee. Plaintiff was working with the Defendant on his campaign for political office and due to her involvement, she frequently spent time alone with Defendant. Plaintiff argues that Defendant's relationship with Plaintiff became inappropriate and when Plaintiff's parents became aware of the relationship, they instructed the Defendant to halt all communications with Plaintiff. However, Plaintiff and Defendant allegedly continued to interact closely with one another in a non-physical capacity, until May of 2011 when Defendant allegedly forced Plaintiff to have sexual intercourse, threatening to harm her if she did not obey.

Plaintiff details a litany of examples where Defendant threatened Plaintiff if she did not succumb to his sexual advances. However despite these advances, Plaintiff did not contact anyone to report the abuse, alleging duress for fear of Defendant acting on his promise to physically harm Plaintiff if she told anyone. Plaintiff alleges the sexual abuse continued through the month of August, including an incident where Plaintiff was sexually abused after she went alone to meet the Defendant at a Super 8 Motel in Dover, Delaware, at Defendant's request.

An anonymous letter was sent to the Delaware General Assembly and an investigation by the Delaware State Police was launched with respect to possible acts committed against the Plaintiff.[2] To date, no formal criminal charges have been filed against the Defendant. Plaintiff claims that because the Defendant has not contested or denied Plaintiff's allegations and claims, and has instead invoked his Fifth Amendment right, that Summary Judgment is proper. Plaintiff now moves for this Court to enter partial summary judgment for the Plaintiff on the basis of liability because, she claims, the record is not in dispute. Plaintiff argues that incontrovertible evidence must be accepted as fact in a motion for summary judgment.

Defendant argues in his Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Liability that Delaware Rule of Evidence 512(a)[3] denies a Court the ability to assume, and that the State of Delaware does not permit, a negative inference on the basis of one invoking their Fifth Amendment Right. Defendant also argues that Plaintiff's inconsistent statements serve as reason to deny summary judgment. The defense argues that material facts are in dispute based on Plaintiff's own testimony. According to the defense, Plaintiff's inconsistent statements and testimony create an issue of credibility, and thus this case should go before a jury. The Defendant argues those facts in dispute are germane to the case, such as whether or not any sexual activity between the parties was consensual. Plaintiff argues that no issues of material fact exist with regard to liability.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment will be granted when, viewing all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the moving party demonstrates that "there are no material issues of fact in dispute and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."[4] This Court shall consider the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any" in determining whether to grant summary judgment.[5] When material facts are in dispute, or "it seems desirable to inquire more thoroughly into the facts, to clarify the application of the law to the circumstances, " summary judgment ...


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