The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer Thursday in a case involving the liability of a township trustee for sexual misconduct of her employee.
In Debra A. Barnett v. Camille Clark, Trustee of Pleasant Township, No. 76A03-0704-CV-182, the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned the trial court grant of summary judgment in favor of Camille Clark, who is also referred to as Camelia in the brief.
Clark’s husband, Donald, was the deputy township trustee. Debra Barnett went to the trustee’s office and met with Donald to obtain financial assistance. At their second meeting, Barnett signed a contract to work for the trustee’s office, as Donald told her that was the only way she could receive financial assistance. At that meeting, he touched her inappropriately and asked her to come back to finish the paperwork. A few days later, Barnett came to Donald’s office, where he blocked the door, turned off the lights and forced Barnett to have sex with him. After she left, she called the police.
The Indiana State Police arrested Donald after he came to Barnett’s house and tried to kiss her and unzipped his pants. He pleaded guilty to sexual battery and an unrelated battery.
Barnett filed suit against Camille Clark, alleging she is vicariously liable for Donald’s actions. The trial court granted summary judgment for Camille, finding Donald’s conduct wasn’t similar to his authorized duties to be within the scope of his employment.
The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision, ruling Donald used his official duties to create an opportunity to be alone with Barnett and he performed his duties before and after his misconduct. Summary judgment shouldn’t have been granted because whether he was acting in the scope of his employment is an issue of fact, ruled the Court of Appeals.