January 11, 2012 - Last week, the California Supreme Court appeared reluctant to give alleged victims of child molestation the right to sue decades after the abuse took place. Several members of the state high court disagreed with a lower court’s ruling that gave adult plaintiffs ambiguous legal deadlines for bringing sexual molestation lawsuits. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye stated that she is concerned that alleged victims could rely on ‘vague language’ to get around legal deadlines.
Free Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Evaluation: If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual abuse, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a suit and we can help.
What’s the problem?
The California Supreme Court is currently investigating a legal claim against the Roman Catholic Church by a half dozen brothers in their 40’s who claim they are suffering the effects of molestation allegedly committed by a priest decades ago. The brothers contend that current laws allow them three years to bring a claim after realizing the abuse caused their psychological trauma.
Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye conveyed skepticism about the claim, stating that the alleged victims were taking advantage of ambiguous verbiage in a state law to circumvent legal deadlines.
"We don't read vague language to revive lapsed claims," Cantil-Sakauye said.
Attorneys for the church have argued that the plaintiffs are barred from bringing such claims after the age of 26. Two lower courts have limited similar claims, but a third ruled that the clock on legal deadlines begins ticking only after the alleged victim realizes the abuse caused his or her psychological problems.
According to court documents, the brothers did not realize until 2006 that abuse suffered during the early 1970’s was responsible for their current mental health issues.
The men stated that they were abused by the priest when he was serving at a perish in Hayward, which falls under the Diocese of Oakland. Formal charges were never brought against the priest, but the diocese settled several claims against the man out of court. Attorneys for the plaintiffs said the priest openly admitted abusing the boys in depositions.
The California high court appeared split over another sex abuse case, a legal claim against the William S. Hart Union High School for employing a counselor with a history of child molestation. The complaint states that the district knew or should have known that Roselyn Hubbell had abused young boys when it hired her as a counselor at Golden Valley High School in Santa Clarita.
According to the complaint, Hubbell repeatedly abused a 15-year-old boy in 2007, driving him home from school and constantly fraternizing with him on and off campus. Hubbell was later arrested at a motel with another underage boy and charged with a misdemeanor.
Justice Carol A. Corrigan said schools must "make sure students are properly educated and that they are safe." A district's responsibility is "to make sure the teachers are not molesting the kids," she said.
Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar was concerned about how the court could limit the ruling to the specific case so that it couldn’t be applied to all ‘intimate, care-taking relationships.’ The court agreed that lawyers for the plaintiff were taking ‘a huge step’ by attempting to impose liability on school administrators.
Both cases are expected to be ruled on within the next three months.
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The Sexual Abuse Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in sexual abuse lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new molestation cases in all 50 states.
Free Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Evaluation: If you or a loved one has been sexually abused or molested, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a sex abuse suit and we can help.