September 8, 2020
By Phil Ray
Local woman’s complaint claims church committed civil fraud by covering up abuse
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hear arguments in October on an Altoona woman’s attempt to redefine the statute of limitations as it applies to her 2016 sexual abuse lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
Renee Rice, 52, has sued the diocese, contending she was a child victim of sexual abuse committed by a priest at the former St. Leo’s Catholic Church in Altoona.
The incidents of abuse, Rice alleges, occurred when she was between the ages of 9 and 14, but her lawsuit was not filed until 2016, subsequent to a statewide grand jury report that accused the diocese of intentionally covering up child sexual abuse cases for decades.
Rice’s lawsuit was dismissed by now Senior Judge Jolene G. Kopriva of Blair County, who ruled the case was governed by a two-year statute of limitations, meaning that Rice should have filed her lawsuit by 1980, when she was 20 years old.
However, Rice’s Altoona attorney, Richard Serbin, appealed the local ruling to the state Superior Court, arguing that the church had committed civil fraud by knowingly covering up cases of child sexual abuse.
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