The common law discovery rule can be extended to apply to civil sexual assault cases.
The plaintiff, Jill McCollum, alleged that her parents, defendants George and Elizabeth D’Arcy repeatedly engaged in forced sexual contact with her from early childhood until she was thirteen years old in 1956, along with verbally abusing her and threatening to lock her in a closer if she told anyone. The trauma she suffered caused her to repress the memories of all of it until June 1990, when she began to experience flashbacks.
Does the discovery doctrine apply in repression a case absent corroborative evidence of sexual abuse if an action brought after the running of the statute of limitations?
The Court affirmed the decision of the lower court. The Court has previously held that the common law discovery rule applies in cases of medical malpractice to toll the running of the statute of limitations until "the patient learns or in the exercise of reasonable care and diligence should have learned" of the presence of a foreign object left in the patient's body. Over the years, this court has extended the application of the common law discovery rule to cases other than medical malpractice. The Court extended the common law discovery rule to a civil sexual assault case as long as the plaintiff’s interests outweigh those of the defendants. Here, the Plaintiff’s cause of action accrued in 1990 and that the plaintiff commenced her action within the applicable statute of limitations.