(CN) - The wife of a child molester did not have the duty to warn her neighbors that it was unsafe for their children to be near her husband, a divided South Carolina Court of Appeals ruled.
Daniel Bibby Sr. admitted in 1995 that he had sexually molested his 16-year-old daughter when she was younger. He was removed from his home for counseling, but he later returned.
Three years later, Jane Roe moved in across the street from the Bibbys, along with her husband and three children. The Roe children and Bibby grandchildren played together and visited each other's homes.
In 2009, Bibby admitted that he had molested his granddaughter. Roe discovered this and asked her own children if Bibby had touched them.
Roe's daughter Joyce said that Bibby had touched her chest and threatened to kill her if she told anyone.
During a forensic interview, Judy Roe, another daughter, said Bibby took his clothes off and forced the Roe children and his granddaughter to do the same. Judy said Bibby touched her private parts and made her touch his granddaughter.
Bibby was convicted of molesting his granddaughter but was not charged with touching the Roe children.
Roe and the children sued Bibby for assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment. They also leveled claims of negligence and wrongful infliction of emotional distress against his wife, Michelle.
The Roes obtained a default judgment against Daniel Bibby, who failed to respond to the lawsuit. Michelle filed a motion for summary judgment, stating that she did not owe a duty to the Roes.
The trial court agreed with Michelle, and the South Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the decision in an Oct. 1.
"Appellants presented no evidence Respondent had the ability to monitor, supervise or control the conduct of Mr. Bibby," Judge James E. Lockemy wrote for the majority. "Respondent worked full-time outside the home and was not always present when the minor Appellants were visiting."
Lockemy also declined to rule in the Roes' favor under the theory of premises liability, noting that Michelle did not believe the children's allegations and that she thought her husband was "cured" after his 1995 treatment.
Judge H. Bruce Williams filed a dissenting opinion.
"Even after Mr. Bibby was removed from their home and placed in counseling, Respondent clearly appreciated the possibility of Mr. Bibby abusing their daughter again," he wrote. "Specifically, she testified she placed a lock of their daughter's door after Mr. Bibby returned and hid the key from him."
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