Catholic Church loses bid to dismiss sexual abuse lawsuit in Kansas

Legal News Line [Chicago, IL]

May 4, 2022

By John O'Brien

 The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., has failed to defeat a sexual abuse claim by claiming the allegations of a former altar boy were too late.

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled April 22 that an eight-year statute of limitations does not doom a man’s claims that he was abused in the 1980s as a child but did not remember until he was an adult.

The ruling allows a John Doe to pursue his lawsuit against the Archdiocese and a priest at St. Matthew Parish. He filed his petition in 2017, claiming he was sexually abused from ages 9 through 12 but did not recover those repressed memories until 2015 when he saw news coverage of abuse uncovered in Guam.

The defendants filed motions to dismiss based on the statutes of limitations and repose, but they were denied. Further arguments at the summary judgment phase that the claims were time-barred were also rejected, leading to appeals.

“The defendants seek to stop this action from proceeding by short-circuiting the fact-finding process at the pleadings stage,” Justice Eric Rosen wrote. “Disputed questions of material fact remain at this point in the proceedings, and judgment on the pleadings or summary judgment is inappropriate.”

When the abuse occurred for the last time – before or after July 1, 1984 – will help determine the time limit Doe had for filing suit, as well as when he discovered the injuries arising from his alleged abuse.

The most literal reading of the above language would indicate that any action—including the present one—would be saved by the statute, no matter when the abuse occurred, so long as it was filed within three years of the discovery of resulting injury or illness,” Rosen wrote.

The church also failed to show anything in the relevant statutes protected it from liability for a crime of which it was not the “active perpetrator.”