Judge Dismisses Some Claims against Nun

By Janice Gregorson
The Post-Bulletin [Minnesota]
April 3, 2007

A district judge has dismissed all claims brought by one woman alleging sexual abuse as a child by a now-deceased nun with the Sisters of St. Francis and also dismissed some of the claims filed by a second woman.

Olmsted District Judge Joseph Chase issued his findings Friday in the cases of Karen Britten of Chicago and Patricia Schwartz of Eden Prairie, Minn.

The two women filed civil lawsuits last year claiming they'd been repeatedly molested by Sister Benen Kent in the mid-1960s while they were students in Chicago. At the time, they allege, Kent was their piano and music teacher at St. Juliana's parish school in Chicago. Kent, a member of the Franciscan Sisters, died in 2003 at age 85.

In 2005, Christine Bertrand of Sierre Madre, Calif., filed a similar civil suit against the order. Bertrand and Britten are sisters.

Friday's ruling does not affect the Bertrand case.

Chase's ruling was in response to a defense motion for summary judgment in the Britten and Schwartz lawsuits. He granted the motion in its entirety in the Britten case, in effect dismissing all the claims. He granted the defense motion for summary judgment in part and denied it in part in the Schwartz case.

"We believe the court has properly followed the law in dismissing those claims," the Sisters of St. Francis said in a statement.

During oral arguments in February, St. Paul attorney Thomas Wieser, one of the attorneys for the defendants, asked the judge to dismiss the suits, claiming they are barred by the statute of limitations. He argued the six-year statute of limitations governing sex abuse claims begins to run when a plaintiff knows or should know that he or she has been sexually abused. The attorneys for the women disagreed.

St. Paul attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who represents the women, said Monday they'll appeal the Britten ruling. There will be no action on Chase's ruling in the Schwartz case; Anderson said the case will go forward on the claims allowed under Chase's ruling.



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