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Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Inc. v. Doe

Supreme Court of Nevada

May 28, 2015

CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF GREEN BAY, INC., Appellant,
v.
JOHN DOE 119, Respondent

Appeal from a final judgment in a tort action. Eighth Judicial District Court, Clark County; Valorie J. Vega, Judge.

Mazzeo Law LLC and Peter A. Mazzeo, Las Vegas, for Appellant.

Matthew L. Sharp, Reno; Jeff Anderson & Associates, P.A., and Michael G. Finnegan and Jeffrey R. Anderson, St. Paul, Minnesota, for Respondent.

CHERRY, J. We concur: Hardesty, C.J., Parraguirre, J., Douglas, J., Saitta, J., Gibbons, J., Pickering, J.

OPINION

Page 519

BEFORE THE COURT EN BANC.

CHERRY, J.:

Here we consider whether Nevada courts have personal jurisdiction over a foreign Catholic diocese. The Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, a religious organization incorporated and headquartered in Wisconsin, employed Father John Feeney as a priest. Feeney later served as a priest in California before coming to the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas. It was alleged tat, during Feeney's time in Las Vegas, Feeney sexually assaulted John Doe 119. Doe sued the Diocese of Green Bay for negligently hiring and retaining Feeney, asserting that the Diocese is responsible for the injuries caused by the sexual abuse.

We conclude that the district court did not have personal jurisdiction over the Diocese of Green Bay in this case. The Diocese did not have sufficient contacts with Nevada. The Catholic doctrine of incardination, whereby Feeney promised obedience to the Diocese of Green Bay, is insufficient to establish a legal employment or agency relationship between Feeney and the Diocese. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment against the Diocese.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Doe filed this negligence suit against the Diocese of Green Bay in the Eighth Judicial District Court. Doe alleged that Feeney molested him in 1984, but that it was not until around 2008 that he discovered that his psychological injuries were the result of Feeney's acts of abuse. Doe alleged that Feeney was an agent of the Diocese of Green Bay at the time that he molested Doe in Las Vegas. Doe further alleged that, at the time of the abuse, the Diocese was aware that Feeney had molested other children in Wisconsin. He claimed that the Diocese negligently retained and supervised Feeney and failed to warn others that Feeney was a danger to children.

Page 520

After an evidentiary hearing held during the trial, the district court concluded that it had jurisdiction over the Diocese. The district court found that Feeney served both the Reno-Las Vegas and the Green Bay Dioceses: While the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas oversaw Feeney's daily activities, the court found that Feeney was originally incardinated in the Diocese of Green Bay and, therefore, had made a promise of obedience to the Diocese of Green Bay. The court further found that the Diocese of Green Bay had the ability to restrict Feeney's ministry, could recall him to Green Bay, and maintained his pension.

Besides any employment relationship, the district court also found that the Diocese of Green Bay had two other contacts with Nevada. It found that the Diocese of Green Bay gave Feeney a positive recommendation via a letter of good standing. And it further found that the Vicar-General of the ...


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