|Rodriguez V. Miles, Donadio, and the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, Inc.
University of South Dakota
March 21, 2011
Roger Rodriguez filed a lawsuit against Brother Matthew Miles, John Donadio, and (The) Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, Inc. Rodriguez's lawsuit included claims for sexual abuse and assault and battery, among others. Rodriguez's lawsuit alleged that he was sexually abused from age seven to ten by Miles and Donadio in the 1970s while he was a student at St. Joseph's Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota.
Miles was a member of the religious order of Priests of the Sacred Heart assigned to work at St. Joseph's as a resident supervisor. Donadio was a resident counselor in the children's dorm after Miles was reassigned away from St. Joseph's. Both Miles and Donadio allegedly raped and sexually abused Rodriguez repeatedly. The Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, the entity that owned and operated St. Joseph's, was included as a defendant in the lawsuit under the doctrine of respondeat superior.
Before trial, the defendants filed motions for summary judgment. The defendants argued that the applicable statutes of limitations barred Rodriguez's claims. Specifically, the defendants asserted that Rodriguez failed to file his personal injury action within three years as required by SDCL 15-2-14(3); his assault or battery action within three years as required by SDCL 15-2-15(1); and, his sexual abuse action within three years from when he discovered that the abuse caused him injury as required by SDCL 26-10-25.
In response, Rodriguez argued that SDCL 26-10-25 extended the time he had to file suit for any civil action, thereby rendering SDCL 15-2-14(3) and SDCL 15-2-15(1) inapplicable. SDCL 26-10-25 provides in part:
Any civil action based on intentional conduct brought by any person for recovery of damages
for injury suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse shall be commenced within three
years of the act alleged to have caused the injury or condition, or three years of the time the
victim discovered or reasonably should have discovered that the injury or condition was
caused by the act, whichever period expires later.
Rodriguez's argument relied on this Court's decision in One Star v. Sisters of St. Francis, 2008 S.D. 55, ¶ 13, 752 N.W.2d 668, 675, which established that SDCL 26-10-25 is a discovery statute. This means that "discovery of the injuries alone is not sufficient to start the running of the statute. Rather, there must also be discovery of some tie linking the acts of abuse to an injury, i.e., 'that the injury or condition was caused by the act.'" Id.
Rodriguez maintained that genuine issues of fact existed concerning when he discovered that the sexual abuse caused his injury or condition. Rodriguez points to his psychologist's affidavit, which stated that "Rodriguez did not connect his condition with the sexual abuse until [July 2005]." Rodriguez's summons and complaint were served in June 2007. Therefore Rodriguez concluded that his lawsuit was filed within SDCL 26-10-25's three-year timeframe.
The trial court, however, rejected Rodriguez's argument. The trial court concluded that no genuine issues of material fact existed. The trial court determined that based on Rodriguez's own deposition testimony, he knew, or should have known, the effects the sexual abuse had on him "long before the filing" of his lawsuit. For this reason, the trial court granted the defendants' motions for summary judgment because the three-year statutory period to bring a claim had passed.
Rodriguez appeals, raising the following issues:
1. Whether the trial court erred in applying the statute of limitations under SDCL 26-10-25.
2. Whether the trial court erred in applying the statute of limitations under SDCL 15-2-14(3).
3. Whether the trial court erred in applying the statute of limitations under SDCL 15-2-15(1).
Mr. William G. Taylor, Mr. Justin Smith, Attorneys for Appellant Roger Rodriguez
Mr. James E. McMahon, Ms. Rochelle R. Sweetman, Attorneys for Appellee Matthew Miles
Mr. Robert B. Anderson, Attorney for Appellee John Donadio
Mr. Rick W. Orr, Mr. Timothy M. Gebhart, Mr. Steven R. Smith, Attorneys for Appellee (The) Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
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