$1.35 Million Settlement in Church Sexual Abuse Lawsuit
Fitzsimmons Law Firm recently obtained a $1.35 Million settlement on behalf of two individuals allegedly sexually assaulted by a church minister. According to the plaintiffs, the defendant minister sexually abused and assaulted the plaintiffs over a span of approximately 8 years during the early 1990s. The defendant minister used his position within the church to repeatedly prey on the plaintiffs during their vulnerable early years. The defendant minister "groomed" the plaintiffs and, after gaining their trust, sexually abused and exploited them. Church officials were informed about prior abuses committed by the defendant minister but failed to take any action in response to these reports, thereby allowing the defendant minister to continue to sexually abuse and assault the plaintiffs.
As a result of the abuses committed by the minister, together with the failures, inactions, and cover-up committed by the church, the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the church minister, the state level church, and the national church. In their complaints, the plaintiffs asserted multiple causes of action, including breach of non-delegable duty (in loco parentis), negligence, negligent hiring and retention, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, conspiracy, fraudulent concealment, sexual assault, sexual battery, vicarious liability and punitive damages.
The defendants filed motions to dismiss alleging that the plaintiffs failed to file their lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations. The defendants had been successful getting two prior cases brought against these same defendants dismissed on summary judgment on statute of limitations grounds.
The plaintiffs, like all childhood victims of sexual abuse and assault, were embarrassed and ashamed by what happened to them. As a result, the plaintiffs dissociated themselves from the most painful and traumatic events in their life - events that no human being should ever have to endure - and repressed all memories of the abuse perpetrated upon them by the defendant minister. In psychology, such behavior is well documented. Childhood victims of trauma often repress painful memories of abuse and fail to comprehend the damage done to them as children. In the underlying case, the plaintiffs' repressed the memories of the abuse until years later when they were adults. The plaintiffs filed the subject claims within 2 years of remembering the events.
The plaintiffs argued that the applicable statute of limitations was tolled by the "discovery rule" during the period which the plaintiffs suppressed these memories. As such, the plaintiffs had two years from the date of recall to file their claims. It should be noted that many jurisdictions have considered what effect memory repression has on tolling the statute of limitations under the discovery rule, but there is a split among these courts. The West Virginia Supreme Court has never fully addressed the issue of memory repression in the context of child sexual abuse.
The plaintiffs settled both underlying claims for a total of $1.35 Million.