John Doe BF v. Diocese of Gallup

2011 Navajo Sup. LEXIS 16

 

RULE:

No cause of action accrues for personal injury or wrongful death until the party having the right to sue has discovered the nature of the injury, the cause of the injury, and the identity of the party whose action or inaction caused the injury, or until, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, in light of available knowledge and resources, the party should have discovered these facts, whichever is earlier.

FACTS:

Appellant alleged that as a 14-15 year old child, he had been sexually molested by defendant parish priest on the Navajo reservation. Following the incidents, Appellant alleged that the priest threatened him with exposure if he told anyone about the abuse. Appellant asserts that the Diocese, Baptist Order and Guadalupe Order aided and encouraged the abuse by transferring him when he was caught sexually abusing children, continuing to assign him to parishes with unsupervised access to children, failing to report his wrongful conduct to authorities and the public, and in having no system in place to supervise priests,  to ensure that no minors were abused in their care. Appellant did not file his complaint until more than twenty years had passed after the alleged abuse occurred. The district court issued an Order to Dismiss upon determining that Appellant had failed to file his action within the required statute of limitations period. On appeal, judgment was reversed and the case was remanded.

ISSUE:

Did the district court err in dismissing the case?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

Tracing psychological and mental injuries over many years primarily to this abuse and not to other causes will not be a simple task. The court held that this is a factual issue suitable for a jury to consider at trial, not weighed by a judge in a preliminary motion. Our courts have a duty, in parens patriae, to ensure allegations of harm to our children are fully heard and not dismissed on mere technicalities. Appellant further asks that the standard of the "reasonable person who has been subjected to the conduct" whose judgment is "altered."

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