J.S. And M.S. v. R.T.H.

714 A.2d 924 (1998)


Ds, husband, and wife, moved into a house in Vineland, New Jersey, and became next-door neighbors of Ps and their two daughters, C.S. and M.S. D's husband was 64 years old, and was charged with sexually assaulting P's children over a period of more than a year. The two families quickly became friends and spent a lot of time together. Ds owned horses and a barn, and, at D's husband's encouragement, the children visited daily to ride horseback and to help care for the horses. Additionally, the husband would take at least the older of the two girls horseback riding on various trails in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Usually, D's husband was the only adult in their company. During the summer of 1992, there were several occasions when P entered the barn, saw her husband with the girls, and stated to him: 'Oh. Your whores are here.' On several occasions that summer when the girls were on the property riding horses, P yelled to them from one of the windows of the house: 'You bitches.' P never 'confronted' her husband about the time he was spending alone with either or both of the girls. He pled guilty to endangering the welfare of minors and was sentenced to eighteen months in state prison. Ps then sued the P's husband for intentional, reckless, and/or negligent acts of sexual assault against each of the two girls. Ps then added P, alleging that she 'was negligent in that she knew and/or should have known of her husband's proclivities/propensities' and that as a result of her negligence the two girls suffered physical and emotional injury. Ds denied the allegations. P also claimed that she owed no duty to Ps, that any alleged negligence on her part was not the proximate cause of any injuries or damages sustained by Ps, and that any damages sustained by Ps were the result of actions by a third party over whom she exercised no control. P also filed a cross-claim against her husband for contribution and indemnification. P was shocked by the news of molestation. P conceded for the purposes of argument that 'at all relevant times' she 'knew or should have known of her husband's proclivities/propensities.' P then moved for summary judgment, and the trial court agreed. This appeal resulted.