PITTSBURGH, June 22, 2012 — On June 1, Members John M. Steidle and Ira L. Podheiser, as well as Associate Stephie-Anna Kapourales Ramaley, obtained summary judgment in a civil suit against a West Virginia church. The plaintiff, who alleged sexual abuse from a former minister at the church, filed a complaint alleging, among other things, that the church breached varying legal duties with respect to its employment of the pastor.
According to the complaint, the alleged abuse occurred in the mid 90s when the plaintiff was a minor. He didn’t report the incident to the police until 2007 nor file his first civil action until 2009 — 15 years after the last alleged encounter. As per W. Va. Code § 55-2-12 and W. Va. Code § 5-2-15, the plaintiff was required to file civil action by his 20th birthday in 2000. The plaintiff claimed that the statute of limitations was “tolled” due to the fact that he had repressed all memory of the incident. Based on evidence developed in the course of discovery which demonstrated that the plaintiff had, on several occasions, recalled the incident, the trial court rejected the plaintiff’s argument and held the statute of limitations barred his claims.
This ruling is significant because it indicates a willingness on the part of the courts to be skeptical of the widely used repressed memory defense in clergy abuse cases.