(CN) - A Delaware woman can continue pursuing her claim that a now-deceased police officer coerced her into oral sex after arresting her, the state's high court ruled.
Joshua Giddings, a Delaware state police officer, arrested Jane Doe at a mall in 2009 on a charge of shoplifting, according to court records.
Doe alleged that Giddings drove to a remote area and offered to let her go if she performed oral sex on him. Under the threat of spending the weekend in jail, Doe complied.
Doe reported the incident to the Delaware state police, who arrested Giddings on charges of official misconduct, receiving a bribe and sexual extortion.
Giddings admitted to the sexual contact but claimed it was consensual. Not long after his arrest, Giddings committed suicide.
Doe sued Giddings' estate and the state of Delaware in 2010, seeking damages for battery, assault and rape.
The trial court granted summary judgment to the state in 2012, finding that Giddings' actions were not within the scope of his employment.
The Delaware Supreme Court overturned the decision in 2013, ruling that a jury must decide the issue of whether Giddings was acting as an employee.
The lower court again ruled in the state's favor in 2014, this time on the basis of sovereign immunity. The Delaware Superior Court also dismissed Doe's claims against the Giddings estate as time-barred.
Doe appealed again, and the Delaware Supreme Court agreed with her that her claims are not barred by sovereign immunity.
"The penal code exclusion (in the state's insurance policy) does not apply to the state, and the policy insures the state against acts like the alleged willful violation of the penal code by its employee, Giddings, that is at issue in these proceedings," Justice Randy Holland wrote in a Feb. 16 opinion. "Because the policy insures the state for the alleged conduct of Giddings, the state has waived sovereign immunity under [state law]."
Holland agreed with the lower court's denial of Doe's request for partial summary judgment, reiterating the state high court's 2013 ruling that the jury must decide that issue.
Holland also found that the lower court correctly dismissed Doe's claims against Giddings' estate, citing an eight-month statute of limitations.
"Doe did not file a suit against Giddings' estate until Aug. 18, 2010, nearly 15 months after Giddings' death," he wrote.