Ruth to hear Saline Township's motions to dismiss sexual battery suits

Amelia Flood Dec. 17, 2010, 12:13am

Tom Maag

Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth is set to hear another round of dismissal moves today in a series of sexual battery cases filed against Saline Township and its former township supervisor Alvin Steiner.

The hearing is set for 10 a.m.

Plaintiffs Elizabeth Watkins, Jamie Miener, Melanie Hedlund, Laura Barry, Ailie Ritchie and Tara Reding are suing the township and Steiner for damages in excess of $50,000 per count of their suits, punitive damages and other relief.

All of the suits were filed this year.

The women claim that Steiner, Saline Township's supervisor until last November, sexually harassed and touched them when they came to the township seeking public aid.

Saline Township and Steiner deny the claims.

Saline Township had won the dismissal of a number of the claims in earlier motions to dismiss.

Ruth allowed the plaintiffs to amend their complaints.

In its motion to dismiss, Saline Township cites Ruth's earlier ruling that Steiner was an elected official and not an employee of the township.

As such, Saline Township claims it can't be held liable for Steiner's alleged acts.

The township argues that the plaintiffs do not claim to have had contact with any person but Steiner when the alleged battery took place.

Saline Township claims that it did not administer the General Assistance Fund from which the plaintiffs sought aid and that while it could have removed Steiner from the position of overseeing the fund it was not legally required to do so.

The township also claims to have absolute immunity from the actions under the Local Governmental Tort Immunity Act.

The defendant also cites the Tort Immunity Act's one-year statute of limitations in relation to the claims raised by Barry and Ritchie.

Saline Township also takes issue with claims in the plaintiffs' amended complaints that the township "attempts to hold Saline Township vicariously liable for acts of Steiner."

The township argues that it can't be held liable for the claims under the state's Gender Violence Act – a point Ruth expressed some doubt on in earlier hearings – because the township is not a human being capable of engaging in gender violence.

"It is clear from the above, that the legislature was intending to prevent gender violence and discrimination against women by men, not local public entities," the motion reads.

The defendant also argues the plaintiffs have failed to make a case for violations of their Constitutional rights.

Thomas and Peter Maag represent all of the plaintiffs.

Lori Vanderlaan and others represent Saline Township.

Mark Weinheimer represents Steiner.

The cases are Madison case numbers 10-L-031, 10-L-145, 10-L-178, 10-L-219, 10-L-309, and 10-L-555.

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