SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

March 14, 2014

SJC dismisses lawsuit in case of slain social worker

PEABODY —

The state's highest court this morning dismissed a lawsuit brought against the board of directors of a group home in Revere where a 25-year-old Peabody caseworker was killed by a resident.

Stephanie Moulton's parents had filed suit against the directors of North Suffolk Mental Health, the private agency that had been contracted by the state to provide residential care for Deshawn Chappell. 

Chappell was convicted last year of first-degree murder in Moulton's January 2011 slaying. 

In a ruling released this morning by the Supreme Judicial Court, the justices concluded that under the state's workers compensation law, only the state could pursue remedies against an employer and that the board members are immune from liability. 

A Superior Court judge had denied a motion by the directors of North Suffolk to dismiss the suit, but this morning's ruling reverses that. 

In the decision, the court found that the issue was properly being decided prior to trial, and that "the director defendants, acting as Moulton's employer when adopting or failing to adopt the workplace policies at issue, are immune from suit under the exclusive remedy provision of the act for injuries Moulton sustained while acting within the course of her employment."

"We conclude also that the directors, as Moulton's employer, owed no fiduciary duty to their employee, and any corrective action for an alleged breach of their fiduciary duty to North Suffolk must be sought by the Attorney General. The complaint against the director defendants accordingly must be dismissed."

The suit also named the state and Chappell as defendants. 

For more on this story, see Saturday's Salem News.

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