John Doe A v. Penn State
First Penn State scandal lawsuit says Coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abused a boy more than 100 times and the abuse was enabled by the school's "negligent oversight."
Bradley v. Lohan
Former Betty Ford Center employee sues Lindsay Lohan for assault, alleging the actress threw a phone at her and yanked her wrist while refusing to be breathalzyed.
N.D. v. New York Post
Hotel maid allegedly raped by French politician sues the New York Post for falsely reporting that she is a prostitute who "routinely traded sex for money" with male guests.
Reinhart v. Mortenson
Two Montana residents allege the author of "Three Cups of Tea" "fabricated material about his activities and work in Pakistan and Afghanistan" to sell the book.

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Julianna Willis Technology



• Maryland appeals court says dog owners can be held strictly liable for pit bull attacks. "Because of its aggressive and vicious nature and its capability to inflict serious and sometimes fatal injuries, pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls are inherently dangerous." Tracey v. Solesky

• Woman who has been diagnosed as a sex addict sues a school district for failing to prevent her from having sex with male students on the school bus when she was in 11th grade.
Barksdale v. Egg Harbor Township Bd. of Ed.

• Civil rights activist challenges Georgia's "stand your ground law." "By not defining what actions create a reasonable perception justifying the use of deadly force, the Act[] potentially deprives all Georgia[n]s of the right to life without due process of law." Hutchins v. Deal

• Former patient of a Rhode Island doctor sues him for featuring her in a book about drug addiction. "Plaintiff had expected, as any reasonable patient would, that her private conversations during her treatment sessions with the Defendant would remain private and confidential."
Lisnoff v. Stein

• Class action alleges the YMCA deceives consumers by representing that it practices "Christian" values while allowing its gyms to be used for gay sex trysts. "YMCAs around the country ... are currently being used as brothels for cruising, with the YMCA's knowledge and implicit consent."
Keister v. YMCA

• Social workers are not liable for a sexual assault on a 5-year-old boy by a 16-year-old male placed in an adoptive home. "To rule against the individual defendants in this case would definitely break new ground."
Doe v. Braddy

• Student sues college for refusing to grant her the "reasonable accommodation" of a single room after she complained about her roommate's exhibitionist behavior.
Blankmeyer v. Stonehill College

• School district can be sued over a guidance counselor's sexual relationship with a student who was over the age of consent. "The inherent imbalance of power between a guidance counselor in a public school and a student may render opportunistic sexual predation sufficiently shocking, even with a 'consenting' student over sixteen, to form the basis of a substantive due process claim."
Doe v. Fournier

• Utah judge finds a "credible threat" that Utah County officials will prosecute a polygamist and his wives for bigamy. The officials' acts "suggest that an actual prosecution of Plaintiffs is forthcoming."
Brown v. Herbert

• Louisville, Ky., strip club sues a competitor for displaying an electronic sign outside a convention center that said "Don't go to Godfathers, their girls are ugly and have crabs."
The Godfather v. Trixie's Lounge

• A lawyer cannot sue two women he dated for posting derogatory comments about him on "[W]hen viewed within the larger context of the website on which they were posted, there can be no doubt that a reasonable reader would understand the comments to be opinion." Coulotte v. Ryncarz

• Oglala Sioux tribe sues beer makers and Whiteclay, Neb., bars for enabling alcohol abuse on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The illegal trade in alcohol has "caused devastating injuries to the Lakota people and massive financial damages to the [tribe]."
Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Schwarting


Was Chuck E. Cheese Mascot a Dirty Old Rat? Print

A Missouri woman who claims a Chuck E. Cheese mascot groped her breast has sued the operator of Chuck E. Cheese restaurants in a case that could hinge on whether the alleged groping “naturally arose” from the mascot's patron-greeting duties.

Cases involving employer liability for an employee's sexual assault on a patron tend to be very fact-specific. And it's probably safe to say there hasn't been a case with facts quite like the alleged assault on Jennifer Sorbello by a man dressed as a mouse.

Sorbello alleges in a complaint filed April 28 that William Thigpen “touched and groped [her] breast with his hand” while performing as the Chuck E. Cheese mascot at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in St. Louis. The restaurant's operator, CEC Entertainment (NYSE: CEC), is named as a defendant under the common-law theory of “respondeat superior” or vicarious liability.

“Greeting patrons ... while costumed and disguised as 'Chuck E. Cheese' was a task within the course and scope of Thigpen's employment,” the suit says, and Thigpen was “engaged in such duty” when he allegedly groped Sorbello.

There is no allegation that Thigpen had previously been inappropriate, which could have made CEC liable for negligent supervision.


The Riverfront Times, an alternative newsweekly in St. Louis, has posted a purported photo of the groping. The mascot appears to have his right hand on the left breast of a startled-looking woman identified as Sorbello.

Missouri jury instructions define the phrase "scope and course of employment" as acts which “even though not specifically authorized are done to further the business or interests of the employer” and which “naturally arise from the performance of the employee's work.”

In a case involving a bouncer's assault on a bar patron, the Missouri Court of Appeals said the second requirement of the instructions, “by its use of the word 'naturally,' implies that the employee's conduct must be usual, customary and expected. This amounts to a requirement of foreseeability.”

Applying that test, it found the owner of the Shady Grove Saloon was not liable for the patron's injuries because the assault “exceeded reasonable bounds and was excessively violent and not to be expected by his employer.” Noah v. Ziehl, 759 S.W.2d 905 (1988).

But the same court earlier upheld a $20,000 award against the employer of a retail store security guard who squeezed a customer's breasts while searching her for stolen merchandise. “[T]he evidence was such that reasonable minds could in fact differ” over whether the guard was acting to benefit his employer's business, the court said in Clark v. Skaggs Companies, 724 S.W.2d 545 (1986).

The Chuck E. Cheese mascot's alleged misconduct seems closer to that of the security guard than the Shady Grove bouncer. But cases in which massage therapists molested clients suggest Thigpen acted outside the scope of his employment.

In Stern v. Ritz Carlton Chicago, 702 N.E.2d 194 (1998), for example, the Illinois Appellate Court  said a hotel was not liable for the conduct of a masseur who assaulted two guests during each of their massages.

“[I]t is not expected that a masseur will sexually assault a client during the course of a massage,” the court concluded. “Although a massage involves physical contact with the client, it cannot reasonably be said that sexual assault by masseurs at the Ritz was encompassed in their duties, was similar to those duties, or was reasonably foreseeable by the Ritz.”

Greeting Chuck E. Cheese patrons may involve physical contact, but CEC could certainly argue it was not reasonably foreseeable that its mascot would grope a patron's breast.

Earlier this week, Chuck E. Cheese settled a proposed $5 million class action in which an Asian-American patron alleged the manager of its Castleton, Ind., location called him a “rice picker” and “yellow man” when he tried to return a defective toy. According to the complaint, the manager had previously “offended other patrons [of] the restaurant and discriminated against Afro-Americans and elderly people.”

This story linked by:

By Matthew Heller


Editor's note: On Point's RSS feed has moved to this link.

  • Hotel Sued Over Slaying of Escort by 'Craigslist Killer'

    The mother of a prostitute slain by the “Craigslist killer” at a Marriott hotel in Boston has alleged in a first-of-its-kind lawsuit that the hotel's operator is liable for her daughter's death because it failed to prevent prostitution from occurring on its premises.
  • Court Extends Doctors' Liability for Prescription Gaffes

    The Utah Supreme Court has given a boost to the battle against prescription drug abuse by ruling that medical professionals can be sued over injuries to a nonpatient that were allegedly caused by  drugs they carelessly prescribed to patients.
  • Girl's Slaying Tests Cruise Line Liability

    The family of a 15-year-old girl who was killed in the crossfire of a gang shootout on a Caribbean island has asked an appeals court to reinstate a lawsuit that tests the liability of cruise ship operators for onshore injuries to passengers.
  • Bystander Claims "Swoon and Fall" Injuries at Church

    In yet another “swoon and fall” case against a church, an Illinois woman claims she was injured during a church service when a parishioner who was receiving the “spirit” fell backward, knocking several other worshippers into her.
  • Jurors' Comments Fuel New Trial Bid in Bullying Case

    Jurors may have opened the door to a new trial in a Maryland school bullying case by saying they returned a verdict for the defense because they were afraid of setting a bad precedent for school systems throughout the country.
  • Abuse Victim Can Sue Ex-DA Over 'Sexting' Messages

    A Wisconsin judge has protected a domestic violence victim from a rogue prosecutor, finding that she can sue him for sending her text messages in which he pressured her to have sex with him.
  • Four Loko Maker Says Users Knew of Health Dangers

    The maker of Four Loko has previewed its defense of a slew of product liability lawsuits, arguing that the physical effects of the energy drink's mixture of alcohol and caffeine — far from being an undisclosed risk to consumers — are precisely what made it so popular.

U.S. v. Arpaio
Subject: Civil rights
Document: Complaint

Schultz v. Medina Valley
Subject: School prayer
Document: Non-Kumbaya order

Chopourian v. Catholic Healthcare
Subject: Sexual harassment
Document: Verdict

Jackson v. Paula Deen
Subject: Sexual harassment
Document: Complaint

Marsh v. Air Tran Airways
Subject: Roaches on a plane
Document: Complaint



Peterson/Pryde v. Thyden
Court: Montgomery (Va.) Circuit
Subject: Virginia Tech shootings
Verdict: $8 million

Sheridan v. Cherry
Court: L.A. Superior
Subject: Wrongful termination



Brown v. Herbert
Date: 12/16/11
Court: USDC, Utah
Hearing: Motion to dismiss polygamy case