Man Can't Sue Diocese, Judges Say Wichitan's Lawsuit Claiming Sexual Abuse Is Barred by Statute of Limitations

Associated Press, carried in Wichita Eagle
July 4, 1997

TOPEKA - Kansas' statute of limitations bars a Wichita man from suing the Wichita Catholic Diocese for alleged sexual abuse at the hands of a priest when he was a youth, the state Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the court affirmed the Sedgwick County District Court's dismissal of the lawsuit of Wendell E. Gravley against the Wichita Diocese and a priest, Robert D. Blanpied .

Gravley filed the civil lawsuit in 1995 when he was 40 years old, alleging Blanpied had inflicted sexual abuse on him in the period of 1965 through 1969, when he was 10 to 15 years old.

Gravley contended that he sustained significant injury and illness because of the sexual abuse and that his problems were traced in 1994 to the abuse. He said he filed his lawsuit within two years of discovery of the cause of his problems. He named the diocese, along with Blanpied , as a defendant because of its acts and omissions and vicarious liability for the alleged misconduct of Blanpied . Judge Paul Buchanan granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment based on their claims that Gravley's lawsuit was barred by Kansas' statutes of limitation.

The 1992 Legislature passed a law that says an action for recovery of damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse must be brought within three years after the victim reaches age 18, or within three years of the person discovering the cause of the injury or illness.

Another law, called the statute of repose, allows an eight-year period to bring claims in childhood abuse cases, but the Court of Appeals said it was evident that Gravley last was abused in 1969, so the eight-year limit would have expired in 1977. Blanpied left the diocese in 1969, and Gravley made no claim of abuse beyond that year.

Chief Judge Patrick Brazil wrote for the court: "The district court correctly held that Gravley's action was barred by the (eight-year) statute of repose. "Furthermore, the district court correctly concluded that (the 1992 law) did not save or revive Gravley's cause of action."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.