Fearing v. Bucher

977 P.2d 1163 (1999)

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Fearing v. Bucher

Oregon Supreme Court
977 P.2d 1163 (1999)

  • Written by Tammy Boggs, JD

Facts

As alleged in a complaint, Melvin Bucher (defendant) was a priest of a local parish from 1970 through 1972. Bucher was an employee of an archdiocese (defendant) and acted as youth pastor, confessor, and priest to Steven Fearing (plaintiff) and Fearing’s family. Fearing, who was a child at the time, grew to view Bucher as a spiritual advisor, mentor, and friend. Fearing and Bucher were allowed to spend time together alone on various occasions due to Bucher’s position of trust and confidence. The Fearing family frequently invited Bucher to their home. Bucher touched Fearing physically in connection with his priestly role. At some point, Bucher sexually assaulted Fearing. Many years later, as an adult, Fearing sued Bucher, the archdiocese, and religious organizations (defendants) for child sexual abuse. Fearing sought to hold the archdiocese vicariously liable through the doctrine of respondeat superior. The trial court dismissed Fearing’s claim of vicarious liability, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Oregon Supreme Court granted review.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Gillette, J.)

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