By John Nickerson, Stamford Advocate, STAMFORD, CT (August 6, 2019) — A Stamford judge has denied a motion to derail a second lawsuit against the Wilton Board of Education charging it allowed a former male employee accused of sexually assaulting a little girl to continue working with kids. The man allegedly went on to take nude pictures of a little boy.
In the 15-page decision, Judge Mary Sommer said she would not toss the case, filed in 2016 by the parents of an unidentified boy who are suing the board and the town of Wilton for negligence. A trial in the case is tentatively set to begin in December.
Attorneys for the school board filed a motion for summary judgment in early May, saying the claims are barred by the doctrine of governmental immunity, which limits the ability to sue government entities for acts of omission resulting in injury or harm.
The parents of the boy say that their son was sexually abused by former paraprofessional Eric Von Kohorn at the Miller-Driscoll School during the 2013-14 school year. Von Kohorn spent 18 months in jail after being convicted in 2015 of possession of child pornography. Last September, the parents of the boy offered to settle their claims against the town and school board for $5,300,000.
The decision in the case comes about 14 months since Wilton reached a settlement with the family of an unidentified 4-year-old girl, who Von Kohorn was alleged to have taken into a Miller-Driscoll bathroom in 2013 and “inappropriately touched, sexually assaulted and battered,” causing visible injury to her genital area.
The undisclosed settlement in that case, made two days before a trial was set to begin in May 2018, is believed to be in the millions because the family had offered to settle for $4.2 million. No criminal charges were filed in either case.
Paul Slager of of Stamford’s Silver Golub & Teitell law firm, who represented the parents of girl Doe is also representing the parents of boy Doe.
“The decision means that a jury can decide if Wilton school administrators, knowing all they knew about Von Kohorn, acted responsibly by allowing Von Kohorn continued access to Wilton preschool students at the Miller-Driscoll School for a full year and a half after learning that a student had reported being abused by Von Kohorn,” he said.
Thomas Gerarde of Hartford’s Howd & Ludorf could not immediately be reached for comment.
According to the judge’s decision, after the first allegation against Von Kohorn was made regarding the girl in early January 2013, he was moved to a different classroom in the school where he would continue to work with other students. The board denies the allegation that he was moved to another classroom.
The second suit alleges that the staff members at the school should have known that the boy was an identifiable victim who “faced the threat of imminent harm from contact with Von Kohorn.” Starting in January 2013 and continuing into 2014 school year, the young boy had frequent contact with Von Kohorn, the suit says.
Despite the fact that the boy was fully toilet trained, Von Kohorn regularly took him into the school bathroom alone and other employees allowed this to happen, the suit alleges. The defense has denied the allegation saying that no Wilton Board of Education employee saw Von Kohorn take the boy into the bathroom and no employee had been told that occurred.
During that time Von Kohorn “sexually exploited and injured boy Doe by taking digital images of him while his pants were down in the bathroom,” the suit states.
The defense also denies these allegations.
The complaint claims that the Board of Education was negligent in hiring and retaining Von Kohorn.
The judge found that boy Doe was an identifiable victim and was in imminent harm from Von Kohorn.
“Multiple school officials gave testimony in Girl Doe and admitted that when Von Kohorn took the female student into the bathroom, alone, the situation posed an imminent threat to her well being,” the judge wrote. “If anything the situation of harm in the present case is more imminent due to the staff’s knowledge of the prior instance with Von Kohorn and the female student.”
A status conference in the case is scheduled to occur at the Stamford courthouse on Wednesday Aug. 8.