Zachariah Blondin v. Milton Town School District

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NOTICE: This opinion is subject to motions for reargument under V.R.A.P. 40 as well as formal revision before publication in the Vermont Reports. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions by email at: [email protected] or by mail at: Vermont Supreme Court, 109 State Street, Montpelier, Vermont 05609-0801, of any errors in order that corrections may be made before this opinion goes to press. 2021 VT 2 No. 2020-031 Supreme Court Zachariah Blondin On Appeal from v. Superior Court, Chittenden Unit, Civil Division Milton Town School District et al. September Term, 2020 Helen M. Toor, J. Jerome F. O’Neill, Celeste E. Laramie, and Chase S. Whiting of Gravel & Shea PC, Burlington, for Plaintiff-Appellee/Cross-Appellant. Pietro J. Lynn, Sean M. Toohey, and Adrienne Shea of Lynn, Lynn, Blackman & Manitsky, P.C., Burlington, for Defendant-Appellant/Cross-Appellee. PRESENT: Reiber, C.J., Robinson, Eaton, Carroll and Cohen, JJ. ¶ 1. COHEN, J. Defendant Milton Town School District and plaintiff, a high-school football player who sued the District after being assaulted by team members during an off-campus team dinner at the residence of one of the players, both appeal various trial court rulings and the jury’s verdict in favor of plaintiff following a five-day jury trial. We affirm. ¶ 2. Plaintiff sued the District1 in April 2017, claiming negligent supervision and a violation of the Vermont Public Accommodations Act (VPAA) in connection with his assault at the hands of fellow football team members at an on off-campus dinner in the fall of 2012. In his complaint, plaintiff alleged the following facts. He was a freshman football player at Milton High 1 Plaintiff initially also sued the Town of Milton and the Town of Milton School Board, but he voluntarily dismissed his claims against the Town in late summer 2017 and the Board on the first day of trial in November 2019. School in the fall of 2012. At that time, the District was aware that members of the football team had engaged in past acts of harassment, including sexual assaults and hazing, against underclassmen team members.2 In October 2012, nine or ten members of the team, including plaintiff, attended a team dinner at one of the player’s parents’ home. At some point that evening, plaintiff was dragged down to the basement and thrown onto a couch, where one player held plaintiff down while another player forcibly inserted a pool cue into plaintiff’s rectum. ¶ 3. In August 2013, the Milton High School principal spoke to plaintiff and another football player after learning that some incoming freshman did not want to play football because they had heard rumors of team members using broomsticks to initiate new team members. When the principal told plaintiff that she would shut down the football program if the rumors proved to be true, plaintiff denied the rumors because he feared retaliation from other students for causing the football program to be shut down. The principal then directed plaintiff to speak to the incoming freshman and tell him he had lied about the …

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