The issue presented in this case is whether the duty to warn, first addressed in our courts in McIntosh v. Milano, 168 N.J. Super. 466, 495 (Law Div.1979), should be imposed on a wife who has knowledge of her husband's probable dangerousness.
Plaintiffs in this action are a group of infant boys who were victims of the sexual and physical assault of defendant, Arthur H. Peley. This action was instituted by their parents as guardians ad litem. The complaint alleges that the infant plaintiffs suffered physical and psychological injury as a direct result of defendant's assaults.
The complaint also names Catherine C. Peley, wife of Arthur Peley. The plaintiffs allege that Catherine Peley knew of her husband's pedophilia and thus had a duty to warn plaintiffs of the possible danger to them. The case is now before this court on a motion for summary judgment by Catherine Peley.
In 1977 defendant, Arthur Peley, was arrested on a charge of debasing the morals of a minor. Peley applied to the pretrial intervention program and was accepted. As a condition of this acceptance Peley, accompanied by his wife, underwent psychiatric treatment.
The incidents which form the basis of the present civil action occurred over a period of time from May 17, 1981 through December 21, 1981. A complaint was filed charging Peley with sexual assault in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(b).
The police report states that a number of parents living in Peley's neighborhood had called the Hillsborough Township Police to report that Peley had assaulted their children on various occasions. The acts in question occurred at the rear of the Peley home, in the swimming pool. Statements were taken from the juveniles involved, confirming these assaults.
A warrant for arrest was issued on March 19, 1982. On April 19, 1982 an indictment was returned charging Peley with six counts of sexual assault. This was subsequently dismissed and an accusation was filed charging sexual assault in the second degree in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(b).
One week after his arrest for these offenses, on March 23, 1982, Peley entered Carrier Clinic where he remained until his discharge on June 30, 1982. The final diagnosis was pedophilia.
Peley pled guilty to one count of sexual assault in the second degree in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(b).
On July 30, 1982 Peley was sentenced to the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center, Avenel, New Jersey, for a period of five years.
The instant complaint was filed on November 10, 1982. A declaratory judgment action was instituted between Peley's personal attorney and his homeowners insurance carrier to determine if his insurer is required to provide a defense of this
action. Trial was held on June 6, 1984 and judgment was entered in favor of the insurer.
Discovery from Peley, who is currently at the Adult Diagnostic Center at Avenel, has been somewhat incomplete. Based partially on the incomplete status of discovery plaintiffs argue that the present motion is premature.
The present motion, however, requires the court to determine whether Catherine Peley owed a duty to plaintiffs. The existence of a duty is a question of law to be determined by the court and may appropriately be resolved on a motion for summary judgment. See McIntosh v. Milano, supra, 168 N.J. Super. at 495. In light of the fact that plaintiffs have had the opportunity to depose Arthur and Catherine Peley, the fact that there is still ...