A private boarding school facing multiple lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by a former English teacher was given a partial victory Thursday when a federal judge granted its motion to dismiss claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress in one of those cases.
Ramsey Gourd’s lawsuit against Lakeville-based Indian Mountain School will now proceed, with surviving claims alleging negligence, recklessness and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Gourd claimed he was sexually assaulted by Christopher Simonds from 1977-1980, beginning when he was 12 years old. Simonds has since died.
Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder attorneys, who represent Gourd and other students accusing Simonds, reached confidential settlements on behalf of three former students of Simonds.
But in her seven-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton said the plaintiff could not meet the high legal standards needed to show intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Arterton wrote that in order to establish intentional infliction of emotional distress, plaintiffs must prove “the actor intended to inflict emotional distress, or that he knew or should have known that emotional distress was a likely result of his conduct.”
The case comes down to what top school officials knew about Simonds’ purported interest in young boys, and when they knew it. Arterton noted William Cuddy, then-chairman of the board of the school, had information from the school nurse at the time that the teacher possessed child pornography and was always touching and hugging students. The school, in court filings, argued that the plaintiffs did not allege sufficient facts to establish that the school’s board knew of Simonds’ predilections either before or during Gourd’s time at Indian Mountain.
The judge found, “These facts, if proved to be known by Cuddy, fail to meet the heightened standard of plausibly showing that Cuddy’s failure to take action regarding Simonds could establish the board’s intentional failure to act, or that the board knew or should have known that its inaction would likely result in extreme emotional distress. Accordingly, defendant’s motion to dismiss will be granted.”
There is no statute of limitations in Connecticut to pursue civil sexual assault claims. Criminal charges were never filed. Gourd, who now lives in Vermont, claims in the April lawsuit that Simonds took advantage of his role as a teacher to have sex with young boys. Those boys, the lawsuit said, were known as Simonds’ “boys” or “pets.”
Simonds, the lawsuit alleges, gave Gourd and other boys marijuana, cigarettes, alcohol, LSD and cocaine. The former teacher, who taught at the school from 1973 until he resigned in 1985, also allegedly showed the boys pornography, and took photographs of them to blackmail them into silence.
The lawsuit alleges that school staff, including then-headmaster Peter Carleton, knew of the abuse but did nothing to stop it.
Plaintiff’s counsel, Antonio Ponvert III of Koskoff, did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Robinson & Cole’s Brad Babbitt, Kathleen Dion and Jeffrey White represent the school. White did not respond to a request for comment, while Dion referred all inquiries to Babbitt, who declined to comment.
Indian Mountain’s director of communications, Ally Morrissey, also did not respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages.