Superior Court of Pierce County. Superior Court Docket No. 92-2-11841-1. Date Filed In Superior Court: November 19, 1993. Superior Court Judge Signing: Donald Thompson.
Written By: Morgan, J., Concurred IN By: Houghton, A.c.j., Fleisher, P.t.j.
MORGAN, J. -- John Doe appeals a summary judgment that dismissed his complaint against Dr. John G. Finch, a psychotherapist. Taking the facts in the light most favorable to Doe,*fn1 we reverse and remand.
John and Jane Doe were married sometime before 1974. They separated in 1977 and divorced in 1981.
In February 1974, Doe began therapy with Dr. Finch, who was already treating Doe's wife. He continued in therapy until February 4, 1980, except for the period from April 1975 to June 1976.
Doe's therapy centered on problems in his marriage. According to him,
When I returned to therapy in June of 1976, my spouse and I were continuing to have marital difficulties. The problem in our marriage was the most important issue facing me at the time, and my therapy with Dr. Finch was largely devoted to this issue. I wanted to change my behavior so that the marriage could be saved, and I wanted Dr. Finch's help. I told Dr. Finch that I wanted to change, and that I loved my wife.*fn2
In 1976, Dr. Finch and Doe's wife began a sexual relationship. That relationship continued until at least 1981. Thus, for a period of about four years, Dr. Finch was providing marital counseling to Doe while at the same time engaging in sexual relations with Doe's wife.
Although Doe was not informed of this sexual relationship by either his wife or Dr. Finch, he observed that his wife and Dr. Finch seemed exceptionally close. As a result, he states, he inquired of Dr. Finch as follows:
There were times when I was jealous of Dr. Finch. It
sometimes seemed that my wife had a higher opinion of him than she did of me, and it sometimes seemed that he occupied a more important place in her life than I did. I even confronted him with my feelings of jealousy. He assured me, more than once, that I had nothing to worry about, and that his relationship with my spouse was strictly professional. He had an explanation for her apparent devotion to him. He told me that he was being a "father figure" to her, to make up for the fathering she never received. Although I sometimes resented the closeness of their relationship--because it seemed like a type of closeness I wanted with my wife but couldn't achieve--I accepted his explanation. I never imagined that he was sexually involved with her. He was a respected Christian psychologist who seemed to stand for the highest moral values. It never occurred to me that while I was pouring my heart out to him about my relationship with my spouse, he was at the same time romantically and sexually involved with her.*fn3
I asked Dr. Finch more than once to explain why my spouse seemed more devoted to him than to me, and why he seemed like such a central person in her life. I asked these questions because I was jealous of him.
He never told me what was taking place. Instead, he misled me by telling me that he was serving as a father figure for her, that is, that he was playing the role of the father she "never had." When I expressed my concerns, and tried to learn more about the relationship, he assured me that his relationship with her was entirely professional. He led me to believe that her feelings about him were an outgrowth of her psychological needs, and that his response to her was nothing for me to be concerned about. He led me to believe that he was working to help preserve the marriage.*fn4
Although Doe ceased therapy on February 4, 1980, he continued to attend annual conferences sponsored by Dr. Finch. Then, in December 1981, he wrote the following letter to Dr. Finch:
The hurt, anger, and bitterness that I feel because of the divorce by [my wife] is choking me to death.
Blame for breakdown of the marriage relationship has always been laid on me--BY BOTH YOU AND HER!! AND THAT is bullshit. Both you and her are also RESPONSIBLE!
AND I HOLD YOU RESPONSIBLE!!
YOU ARE NOT A HEALER --YOU ARE A BREAKER. YOUR CHRISTIAN PSYCHOLOGY SHOWS ME NO EVIDENCE OF BEING HEALING! . . .
THE TRUE REASON WHY THERE COULD BE NO RECONCILIATION IS--THAT YOU ESTABLISHED AND NURTURED A RELATIONSHIP. YOU STOLE HER AFFECTION WHICH YOU HAD NO RIGHT TO DO! WHEN SHE TRANSFERRED WIFELY AFFECTION TO YOU--YOU LET IT HAPPEN. YOUR "EXCUSE" WAS TO PROVIDE A LOVING MALE RELATIONAL EXAMPLE FOR HER--TO ...