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Burns v. Boy Scouts of America

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 27, 2015

Rachel E. Burns, Nicholas E. Magnuson, and Jacob Burns, Plaintiffs,
v.
The Boy Scouts of America, a congressionally chartered corporation, authorized to do business in Minnesota; and Central MN Council Boy Scouts of America, a Minnesota non-profit Corporation; and the County of Stearns, Minnesota, a political subdivision of the State of Minnesota, Defendants.

Michael A. Bryant, Esq., Bradshaw & Bryant PLLC, counsel for Plaintiffs.

John F. Angell, Esq., Louis A. Behrendt, Esq., Garth J. Unke, Esq., and Stacey L. Sever, Esq., Stich Angell Kreidler Dodge & Unke, PA, counsel for Defendants The Boy Scouts of America and Central MN Council Boy Scouts of America.

Allison A.W. Lindevig, Esq., and Jessica E. Schwie, Esq., Jardine Logan & O'Brien PLLP, counsel for County of Stearns, Minnesota.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DONOVAN W. FRANK, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment brought by the County of Stearns, Minnesota ("Stearns County") (Doc. No. 59), and a Motion for Summary Judgment brought by Defendant The Boy Scouts of America ("BSA") and the Central Minnesota Council Boy Scouts of America (the "Council") (Doc. No. 61). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants both motions.

BACKGROUND

Since 1979, the Stearns County Sheriff's Department has facilitated an Explorer Post program, which is sponsored by the Council. (Doc. No. 69, Bechtold Aff. ¶¶ 2-3; Doc. No. 71, Lindevig Aff. ¶ 2, Ex. E ("Reuter Dep.") at 14-15.) The Explorer Post Program accepted male and female adolescents aged fifteen to twenty-one years old. (Bechtold Aff. ¶ 4.) The program offered law enforcement experience, including training scenarios, skills competitions, and observation activities, such as ride-alongs. (Bechtold Aff. ¶ 5; Lindevig Aff. ¶ 2, Ex. A ("R.B. Dep.") at 131-32, 155-56; Lindevig Aff. ¶ 2, Ex. B ("N.M. Dep.") at 93-44, 98-99.)

The Explorer Post was directed and overseen by Explorer Advisors from the Stearns County Sheriff's Department. (Bechtold Aff. ¶ 7.) Chief Deputy Bruce Bechtold ("Bechtold") administered the Program, which was run by approximately six to eight Explorer Advisors. ( Id. ) Philippe Jerome Meemken ("Meemken") was a Senior Advisor. (Lindevig Aff. ¶ 2, Ex. L ("Meemken Dep.") at 69.) The Explorer Post had an officer corps and an internal chain of command. (R.B. Dep. at 133-34, 148-50, 165-69, 193; N.M. Dep. at 51, 90, 105, 119-20, 146.) Explorers were to report issues or problems to superior officers within the Post. ( Id. )

Plaintiffs Rachel E. Burns ("R.B."), Nicolas E. Magnuson ("N.M."), and Jacob Burns ("J.B.") were all Explorers. R.B. became an Explorer in the fall of 2006, was promoted to the rank of Explorer Lieutenant in 2008 and Explorer Captain in 2009. (R.B. Dep. at 117, 119-20.) N.M. became an Explorer in the fall of 2006, was promoted to Explorer Sergeant in 2008 and Explorer Lieutenant in 2009. (N.M. Dep. at 70, 75.) J.B. became an Explorer in the fall of 2009. (Lindevig Aff. ¶ 2, Ex. C ("J.B. Dep.") at 25.) All three remained active members until December 2009, when the program was disbanded. Every fall, Explorers received training regarding Stearns County policies, including those related to sexual harassment. (R.B. Dep. at 175-76; N.M. Dep. at 102.)

Meemken was employed by Stearns County in a variety of positions beginning in 1992, including as a correctional officer and a patrol officer. (Meemken Dep. at 6-7.) In 1993, Meemken became an Explorer Advisor and later, in 2004, became a Senior Advisor. ( Id. at 9.) Prior to December 10, 2009, there were no reports of sexual abuse or any other inappropriate conduct or relationships between Explorers and Stearns County Sheriff's Department personnel. (Bechtold Aff. ¶ 8.)

R.B. and J.B. are brother and sister. (Meemken Dep. at 18; R.B. Dep. at 64.) Meemken is both R.B. and J.B.'s uncle (Meemken Dep. at 18).[1] R.B. and J.B. had frequent contact and interaction with Meemken as family members. (Meemken Dep. at 20-21.) During the relevant time period, R.B. and N.M. were romantically involved. (N.M. Dep. at 137, 288-89.) N.M. spent a considerable amount of time with R.B. and her family, including Meemken, at family gatherings and the like. (N.M. Dep. at 8, 288-89; Meemken Dep. at 49.) N.M. first met R.B. and Meemken in the Explorer Program. (N.M. Dep. at 246, 252; Meemken Dep. at 19.)

On December 10, 2009, the Stearns County Sheriff's Department received a report of sexual abuse. (Bechtold Aff. ¶ 12.) N.M. contacted Stearns County Deputy Brent Curtis ("Curtis") to make the report that Meemken had sexually abused him and R.B. (N.M. Dep. at 29-30; Lindevig Aff. ¶ 2, Ex. F ("Curtis Dep.") at 29-33; R.B. Dep. at 75, 157-158.) The matter was referred to Douglas County and ultimately to the BSA for investigation. (Bechtold Aff. ¶ 12; Curtis Dep. at 32.) Subsequent investigation led to further allegations of sexual abuse of J.B.

Plaintiffs allege that Meemken sexually abused each of the Plaintiffs during the approximate time period of July 2008 to December 2009. Meemken denies the allegations.[2] The allegations include the following incidents: (1) on or about July 4, 2008, Meemken sexually abused N.M. while they were both intoxicated at a party hosted at the lake home of R.B.'s uncle, who is Meemken's brother (N.M. Dep. at 14, 263, 266, 272.); (2) in August 2008, Meemken sexually abused R.B. while R.B., N.M., and Meemken were at R.B.'s mother's home (R.B. Dep. at 115-16, 249-51; N.M. Dep. at 273-75); (3) in the spring of 2009, Meemken sexually abused both R.B. and N.M. while they were at Meemken's home (R.B. Dep. at 252-255; N.M. Dep. at 17, 275-79); (4) on another occasion, Meemken sexually abused N.M. at R.B.'s mother's home (N.M. Dep. at 16); (5) in the summer of 2009, Meemken sexually abused J.B. in his mother's living room (J.B. Dep. at 143-44, 166-67); (6) in 2009, Meemken sexually abused J.B. during a family camping trip (J.B. Dep. at 147-51); and (7) in December 2009, Meemken sexually abused N.M. at N.M's apartment (N.M. Dep. at 18, 283-85). On December 10, 2009, N.M. contacted Stearns County Deputy Brent Curtis and ...


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