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DOE v. ROSA, NO. 14-1748

Decided: July 28, 2015

The Fourth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court and held that Defendant, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, did not have an affirmative duty to protect the Plaintiffs from a pre-existing danger under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Plaintiffs are John Doe 2 and his brother, John Doe 3, who were sexually abused by Louis “Skip” ReVille from 2005 to 2007. ReVille began abusing Doe 2 when ReVille volunteered to coach Doe 2’s basketball team. ReVille later became a part-time caregiver to Doe 2 and Doe 3, and began molesting Doe 3.  During this time, the Plaintiffs attended the Citadel Summer Camp, where ReVille, a former Citadel cadet, worked.  Defendant, John Rosa, was the president of The Citadel during this time period. In April 2007, he received a phone call from a father of a former camper alleging that ReVille had molested his son in 2002. Rosa did not report the complaint to law enforcement and, the Plaintiffs contended, attempted to conceal the allegations. The Plaintiffs argued that Defendant’s actions allowed ReVille to continue the abuse of Plaintiffs throughout the summer of 2007.

Plaintiffs argued that Defendant was liable under §1983 based on a state-created danger theory. To prevail under a state-created danger theory, a plaintiff must show that the state actor created or increased the risk of private danger, and did so directly through affirmative acts, not merely through inaction or omission. The Court disagreed with Plaintiffs and found that their claim failed because they could not demonstrate that Defendant created or substantially enhanced the danger. The Court concluded that ReVille began abusing the Plaintiffs two years before Defendant could have been aware of the complaint. Furthermore, the Court found that Defendant did not create or increase the risk of the Plaintiffs abuse. Allowing continued exposure to an existing danger by failing to intervene is not equivalent to creating or increasing the risk of that danger. Therefore, the Court held that the state-created danger doctrine did not impose liability on Defendant for ReVille’s ongoing abuse of the Plaintiff.

Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court’s order.  

Full Opinion

Meredith Weisler