A lawsuit filed against the Town of Wilton and the Wilton Schools involving a former school employee jailed on child pornography charges could be heading to settlement.
It would be the second of three lawsuits linked to the former preschool paraprofessional and accusing the school district of negligence and liability to be settled by the town.
Last week (Aug. 18), lawyers for a Wilton family who alleged their child was sexually exploited by former Wilton Preschool paraprofessional Eric von Kohorn filed a motion of continuance in CT Superior Court. The motion indicates the parties named in the family’s 2016 lawsuit, John Doe PPA v. Wilton Board of Education et al, “have reached a settlement in principle.”
Two attempts to reach the family’s attorney, Paul Slager of the Stamford firm of Silver Golub & Teitell, were unsuccessful. First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice confirmed to GOOD Morning Wilton that “a settlement in principle has been reached.”
In an email, she declined to answer any further questions or provide more information, writing, “We don’t discuss ongoing litigation,” and adding, “There are many details to be resolved, including the probate court approval.”
This is the second time the John Doe case has come close to settling. The complaint had been headed to a jury trial in January 2020 when attorneys for John Doe’s family indicated that the parties might instead reach a settlement and were headed to mediation. Court proceedings were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, and by 2021 both sides again were taking steps to prepare for a trial, as recently as June 2022.
Now with last week’s motion for continuance announcing the parties are ready to settle, Judge Robert Genuario approved the plaintiff’s motion to postpone the jury trial that had been scheduled to start on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022.
The family of John Doe [sometimes referred to as ‘Boy Doe’ in court documents] filed their lawsuit in November 2016 against the Town of Wilton and the Wilton Board of Education, alleging that while von Kohorn worked for Miller-Driscoll Preschool Services he sexually exploited their son in 2013-14, when the boy attended school there.
The lawsuit alleged that von Kohorn took a male student, John Doe, alone into a Miller-Driscoll school bathroom and photographed him in the bathroom stall while the child’s pants were down. The complaint asserted that the preschool staff, district administrators and BOE knew of prior incidents involving von Kohorn and at least one other student and placed John Doe in danger by reassigning von Kohorn to the boy’s classroom.
Von Kohorn was hired to work at the M-D preschool in 2007, and worked with preschool students until his arrest by Connecticut State Police on Aug. 20, 2014 on charges of possession of child pornography and promoting a minor in an obscene performance. Von Kohorn later pled guilty to a reduced charge of illegal possession of child pornography in the second degree. He was sentenced in October 2015 to six years in prison, suspended after two years served, and 10 years probation. He was released from prison in 2017.
The John Doe suit was the second filed by a Wilton family against the schools following von Kohorn’s arrest.
In the first lawsuit, Girl Doe v. Wilton Board of Education et al, another family sued the town of Wilton and the Wilton Board of Education, alleging their daughter had been sexually assaulted by von Kohorn in a Miller-Driscoll bathroom during the 2012-13 school year. Slager also represented Girl Doe’s family, and that case was settled in May 2018 for an undisclosed sum.
A third family filed a lawsuit, James Doe v. Wilton Board of Education et al, in December 2020, more than six years after von Kohorn’s arrest and conviction. James Doe and his parents, who are also plaintiffs in the suit, allege that during the 2013-14 school year Von Kohorn sexually assaulted and exploited the boy, who was 4- and 5-years-old at the time and enrolled in Miller-Driscoll Preschool Services.
Slager also represents James Doe’s family. In April 2022, Slager filed an Offer of Compromise asking the Town and Board of Education for $5 million to settle the case. The town’s attorneys from the law firm of Howd & Ludorf, LLC offered no response and a trial management conference was scheduled for this week, on Thursday, Aug. 25, and voir dire was set for Sept. 14.
However, yesterday (Monday, Aug. 22), Howd & Ludorf attorney Thomas Gerarde filed a motion for continuance in the James Doe case citing several reasons, among them how complicated the case is with numerous expert witnesses on both sides; that there are “complicated insurance issues regarding applicable coverage”; and the parties hope to reach a point where they will “consider mediation in the Spring of 2023.”