State Of Iowa Not Liable In Alleged Sexual Assault By Man Who Had Been Civilly Committed

Apr 14, 2017

The Iowa Supreme Court says the state of Iowa is not liable for a sexual assault allegedly committed by a man who for years had lived at the state’s Civil Commitment Unit for Sex Offenders, because the assault occurred after William Cubbage was discharged from state custody. 

CCUSO released Cubbage to the Pomeroy Care Center after he developed dementia. He hadn't made any progress in his treatment during his civil confinement, but the CCUSO staff told Pomeroy that Cubbage wouldn't be a risk to older people because he was a pedophile. 

Yet in 2011, Cubbage allegedly assaulted 95-year-old Mercedes Gottschalk, another Pomeroy resident. Gottschalk died in 2012, though her family wants to sue both the nursing home and the state for negligence. 

But the Iowa Supreme Court ruled five-to-two that the state isn’t liable, because Cubbage had been discharged from state custody when Gottschalk was attacked.

"A special relationship does not exist between the State and Cubbage when the courts discharged him from CCUSO and committed him to the care center," writes David Justice "The courts made the decision to discharge Cubbage, not the State."

In his dissent, Justice Daryl Hecht says the evidence that Cubbage hadn't been meaningfully rehabilitated was "overwhelming".

"The administrators of CCUSO wanted to move Cubbage out because he was resistant to [sexually violent predatory] treatment and suffered from dementia; the Pomeroy Care Center had an interest in filling a bed; and Cubbage had no reason to oppose the move to a less-restrictive environment in the nursing home," writes Hecht.

A trial date for the lawsuit between Pomeroy Care Center and Gottschalk's estate has not yet been set. Due to his dementia, a judge ruled in 2014 that Cubbage was not competent to stand trial for assaulting Gottschalk.