Plaintiff was a 15 year old girl. She filed an action against defendant, alleging that a chauffeur from defendant company raped her while she was a passenger on the bus.
Plaintiff, even under the age of eighteen, has no cause of action against a male with whom she willingly consorts, if she knows the nature and quality of her act.
Barton (plaintiff) was a passenger of Bee Line, Inc.(defendant), a common carrier, when she was fifteen years old. Plaintiff claimed that she was raped by one of defendant’s chauffeurs.
Barton sued Bee Line for breach of duty as a common carrier.
The chauffeur claimed that plaintiff consented. Both parties agreed that, if the chauffeur raped plaintiff while she was a passenger, defendant would be liable in damages for failure to perform its duty as a common carrier to its passenger. The jury was instructed that plaintiff was entitled to a verdict even if she consented to consort with the chauffeur. As a result, the jury returned a verdict for plaintiff. The trial court set the verdict aside, stating that the amount was inadequate. Plaintiff appealed to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York.
Did the trial court err by instructing the jury that the plaintiff was entitled to recover when she consented to the sexual intercourse?
The Supreme Court of New York held that the trial court erred in instructing the jury that plaintiff was entitled to a verdict even if she consented to consort with the chauffeur.
Unpacking subdivision 5 of section 2010 of the Penal Law: “A person who perpetrates an act of sexual intercourse with a female, not his wife, under the age of eighteen years, under circumstances not amounting to rape in the first degree, is guilty of rape in the second degree, and punishable with imprisonment for not more than ten years[,]” the Court explained that it is one thing to say that society will protect underage girls who are too young to understand the situation they are in; but it is another to hold that, knowing the nature of the act, such underage girls should be rewarded for her indiscretion.
The Court reasoned that by awarding plaintiff here for having consensual sex, the crimnal statutes may turn a shield to save incapcity, to a sword to desecrate.
The Court held that a female under the age of eighteen has no cause of action against a male with whom she willingly consorts, if she knows the nature and quality of her act.