Judges to Evaluate Repressed Memory
School Fights ’70s Sex Abuse Allegations
Columbia Daily Tribune [St. Louis MO]
November 17, 2004
ST. LOUIS (AP) - A Missouri appeals court heard arguments yesterday over whether a person who recalls a repressed memory of sexual abuse may sue an institution - as well as the perpetrator - within three years of remembering the incident.
Courts have interpreted a Missouri statute allowing the three-year grace period in cases of repressed memory to apply only to claims against perpetrators - not such entities as a church or its institutions.
In the case heard yesterday by a three-judge Missouri Court of Appeals panel, lawyer Joseph Bauer Jr. - an attorney for the alleged victim - argued the grace period also should apply to schools and religious orders.
Gerard Noce, an attorney representing the school and religious order sued over the alleged abuse, countered that it’s not fair to try decades-old cases.
Michael Powel, 46, of St. Petersburg, Fla., alleged in a lawsuit two years ago that he was sexually abused by a priest and religious brother from 1973 to 1975, when he was a teenager attending and boarding at Chaminade College Preparatory School in St. Louis County.
Yesterday, Bauer told the court that Powel had repressed his memory of the abuse until February 2000, when it was triggered by a diagnosis of brain cancer and a contemplation of his life.
Powel filed his lawsuit two years later.
A St. Louis circuit judge dismissed Powel’s case against Chaminade and the religious order that runs it, the Marianist Province of the United States.
Bauer argued that Chaminade and the Marianists should be held accountable for failing to supervise the alleged abusers.
Also named in the lawsuit as one of the alleged abusers, former Brother John Wolfe was served notice of the claim but never responded. Powel won a default judgment against Wolfe, who left the Marianist order in the late 1970s.
Also named in the lawsuit as an alleged abuser was the Rev. William Christiansen, who remains a Marianist but left Chaminade to become a community organizer for rural development in Bangladesh.
Bauer said he’d been unable to serve Christiansen with the lawsuit in Bangladesh.
In 2000, the Missouri Court of Appeals held that a former student’s claims against the Archdiocese of St. Louis were barred by the statute of limitations despite his claim that he had repressed the memory of sexual abuse.
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