Redwing v. Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of Memphis

363 S.W.3d 436 (2012)

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Redwing v. Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of Memphis

Tennessee Supreme Court
363 S.W.3d 436 (2012)

Facts

Norman Redwing (plaintiff) was raised in a Catholic home, and, between the ages of 12 and 14, Redwing regularly attended mass at Holy Names Catholic Church in Memphis, Tennessee (the church), where he developed a close relationship with Father Milton Guthrie. Guthrie eventually manipulated Redwing into a physical relationship that included oral sex. Over 30 years later, Redwing filed a civil suit against the Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of Memphis (the diocese) (defendant), alleging negligent hiring, supervision, and retention as well as breach of the diocese’s fiduciary duty, based on Guthrie’s sexual abuse and the diocese’s knowledge of Guthrie’s propensity for such abuse. Guthrie was not a named defendant because he was deceased. The diocese moved to dismiss Redwing’s claim and argued, in part, that state courts lacked subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to the ecclesiastical-abstention doctrine, which deprives a civil court of jurisdiction over claims for which the court would be required to resolve religious questions. However, the diocese did not argue that Guthrie’s conduct was based in any religious belief. The court of appeals held that the state courts had subject-matter jurisdiction over the negligent-supervision claim but lacked jurisdiction over the negligent-hiring and retention claims. The court of appeals also held that the claims were barred by the statute of limitations. Redwing appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Koch, J.)

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