Court Upholds Dismissal of Lawsuit against Diocese
Sioux City Journal
January 25, 2006
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) -- The dismissal of a lawsuit over alleged sexual molestation by a priest in South Dakota was upheld Tuesday by a federal appeals court.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis agreed with a federal judge who said Gerald P. Pecoraro, of Omaha missed the legal deadline to file a lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Rapid City.
Pecoraro alleged in his lawsuit that a priest who was director at Sky Ranch for Boys in Harding County molested him in the 1960s when he was in his teens. The diocese, which appointed the priest and directed his actions, should be held liable, Pecoraro said.
An initial lawsuit filed by Pecoraro in Nebraska against Sky Ranch and the Rapid City Diocese was dismissed by a judge.
He later filed suit in federal court in South Dakota against the diocese.
In March 2005, U.S. District Judge Richard H. Battey of Rapid City ruled that Pecoraro did not file the lawsuit before a three-year statute of limitations expired.
In upholding Battey's decision, the three-judge appeals court panel rejected Pecoraro's arguments that a six-year statue of limitations -- not three years -- applies in the case and that the three-year period should have been delayed because he was mentally ill.
The appeals court also rebuffed his argument that the three-year time limit should not have been running while his Nebraska lawsuit was in the works.
"Following the dismissal (in Nebraska) of Pecoraro's claim against the Diocese, Pecoraro sat on his hands for over one year rather than attempting to protect his lawsuit by immediately filing a claim in South Dakota," the justices said.
"Pecoraro's claim against the Diocese is untimely, and the facts of this case, no matter how vile, do not permit tolling of the three-year statute of limitations," the court said.
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