An appeals court ruled Thursday that most of a lawsuit filed by victims of former Schenectady City School District facilities director and local CSEA union boss Steve Raucci can continue against the district.
Harold and Deborah Gray filed a lawsuit against the school district that said Raucci’s actions outside of school were part of his “reign of terror,” and that the district knew what was going on and did nothing.
The school district argued that officials were not responsible for Raucci’s actions outside of school.
The decision issued Thursday by the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court in Albany upheld an earlier ruling by a state Supreme Court judge denying the district’s request to dismiss the Grays’ complaint.
But the appeals judges said that the low court “erred” in not dismissing a portion of the Grays’ claim that the district was responsible for intentionally inflicting emotional distress.
“Not everything that a bad person does, who is in your employ, is something that you become liable for under a theory of vicarious liability,” the district’s attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, argued before the appeals court in May. “Even if you know that that employee might not be a good person and might be doing bad things at times.”
The court said the couple must prove that Raucci’s conduct against them was “so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go against all plausible bounds of decency … and was utterly intolerable in civilized society,” not just embarrassing.
The court did find merit in two other counts in the couple’s civil action suit against the district.
The court said the district knew or should have known about Raucci’s tendencies to engage in conduct that caused the couple’s injuries, calling the couple’s allegations of “negligent supervision and negligent retention of Raucci” fair.
Raucci, 62, was convicted in spring 2010 of first-degree arson and 17 other counts. He is currently serving 23 years to life in state prison. The prosecution charged that Raucci was responsible for numerous criminal acts, including placing bombs on homes or cars, in a series of incidents intended to intimidate people he perceived as enemies or enemies of his friends.
The Grays knew Raucci through the union. Raucci blamed the Grays for a whistle-blowing letter and targeted them in several acts of vandalism and attempted intimidation, according to trial testimony.