In re: Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Chapter 11, Debtor.
Case No. 11-20059-svk.
United States Bankruptcy Court, E.D. Wisconsin.
February 24, 2012.
MEMORANDUM DECISION ON DEBTOR’S OBJECTIONS TO CLAIMS 76 and 77 FILED BY CLAIMANTS A-12 AND A-13
SUSAN V. KELLEY, Bankruptcy Judge.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee (the “Debtor”) objected to Proofs of Claim number 76, 77, and 131 (the “Claims”) filed by three individuals who will be referred to in this decision as Claimants A-12, A-13, and A-49.1 The Debtor moved for summary judgment, arguing that the Claims should be disallowed as time-barred under Wisconsin’s statute of limitations. The summary judgment motion was fully briefed, and the Court heard oral argument on the motion on February 9, 2012. After consideration of the written submissions and the argument of counsel, the Court issued an oral ruling at the hearing, which is memorialized by this decision. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants in part and denies in part the Debtor’s Motion for Summary Judgment.
The Debtor filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code on January 4, 2011. Claimants A-12 and A-13 filed Claims 76 and 77, under seal, on September 6, 2011, alleging that Father Franklyn Becker and Choir Director Robert Schaefer, respectively, sexually abused them. On December 20, 2011, the Debtor filed Objections to the Claims, urging disallowance under 11 U.S.C. § 502(b)(1) because the Claims are “unenforceable against the debtor . . . under any agreement or applicable law.”2 In its Motion for Summary Judgment, the Debtor argued that Wis. Stat. § 893.54(1) bars the Claimants’ negligence based claims, and that Wis. Stat. § 893.93(1)(b) bars the Claimants’ fraud based claims. With respect to the negligence claims, the Debtor maintains that the three-year statute of limitations began to run on the later of the last date of abuse — during 1974 for Claimant A-12 and 1982 for Claimant A-13 — or the date when each Claimant reached 18 years old. Regarding the fraud claims, the Debtor contends that the six-year statute of limitations started no later than July 8, 2004, when the Debtor published a list of abusive priests on its website and disseminated this list via local media. As the Debtor’s argument goes, six years from July 8, 2004 is July 8, 2010, and thus, by January 4, 2011 when the Debtor filed bankruptcy, the statute of limitations had expired.
In response, the Claimants filed Affidavits stating that they did not discover that the Debtor was the cause of their injuries until 2009 at the earliest, and argued that the issue of when they reasonably should have discovered the Debtor’s role in their injury is not a question that should be decided on summary judgment.
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