Jury Awards $5 Million to Kayaking Coach’s Abuse Victim
Woodstock — A Windsor County jury yesterday awarded a $5 million verdict to a Woodstock native who was sexually assaulted while attending the long-defunct Adventure Quest School in West Windsor during the mid-1990s, according to attorneys.
The lawsuit, filed by Scott Mann against the outdoors academy and its founder, Peter Drutchal, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for sex assault, wound its way through the courts for nearly a decade to get to yesterday’s verdict in Woodstock.
“I think the jury accepted their responsibility as spokespeople for society that we need to take a stand on this,” said Orford attorney Ed Van Dorn, whose firm represented Mann. “I think they were totally outraged by the conduct. We expect these institutions to protect our children.”
Another lawsuit in the case is pending. The family of a second Drutchal victim also has filed lawsuit against Adventure Quest. The Pomfret-based family of Nathan LaBreque, who died in Tanzania in 2005, has brought similar claims that are scheduled to go to trial later this year, according to attorney Cabot Teachout of Norwich.
Drutchal founded Adventure Quest in 1989 and was its only full-time, year-round employee. It began as a summer camp and grew into an accredited academy that catered to students who wanted to pursue competitive kayaking.
He seduced victims with outdoor equipment and sponsorships, and threatened to take those things away and sabotage their futures in the sport if they rejected his sexual advances, according to previous reports. He also made sleeping arrangements on kayaking trips that facilitated the abuse.
Drutchal’s possessions were packed and he was planning to move to Hawaii with his wife, Kathryn Edwards, when Vermont State Police arrived to arrest him.
Drutchal, who also went by the name Peter Kennedy or Peter Drutchal-Kennedy, molested at least two boys about 50 times each.
One of the boys said he was assaulted from when he was 10 or 11 until he was 16, the other said the assaults began around his 12th birthday and lasted until he was in his mid-teens.
Mann at one point complained to an Adventure Quest staff member about Drutchal’s conduct, but the staffer took the complaint to Drutchal and did not notify any authorities, Van Dorn said.
“It was anything goes,” Van Dorn said.
In February 2002, Drutchal received a 20- to 30-year prison sentence on two counts of aggravated sex assault as part of a plea deal.
Mann, who went on to become an alternate on the 2004 and 2008 U.S. Olympic kayak teams, lives in the Washington, D.C. area, where he has a successful career, Van Dorn said.
Though they prevailed with the jury yesterday, Mann and his legal team will still have to fight to secure the $5 million judgment. They will have to do battle in court with Adventure Quest’s insurance company, which has argued it cannot be held liable for Drutchal’s condcut.
Questions surrounding the insurance companies’ potential liability have already been argued before the state Supreme Court, and the dispute may be headed there again, attorneys said.
Kaveh Shahi, attorney for Adventure Quest, did not respond to a message seeking comment yesterday.
Mark Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3304.