Sunday, May 7, 2006

Case Law Development: Ohio Court of Appeals Says Woman Claiming Priest Impregnated Her 40 Years Ago May Proceed with Action against Archdiocese

The Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals ruled Friday that a woman claiming a Catholic priest impregnated her 40 years ago and coerced her into putting the baby girl up for adoption may proceed with her case against the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.  She is accusing the church of covering up the priest’s conduct and pressuring her to keep quite about the child’s father.  The court held that the Archdiocese was equitably estopped from asserting the statute of limitations defense because (1) the defendant made a factual misrepresentation; (2) the misrepresentation was misleading; (3) the misrepresentation induced actual reliance that was reasonable and in good faith; and (4) the misrepresentation caused detriment to the relying party. As to the first two elements, a plaintiff must show either actual or constructive fraud.  Additionally, when it is used in a statute-of-limitations context, a plaintiff asserting equitable estoppel must show either “an affirmative statement that the statutory period to bring an action was larger than it actually was or promises to make a better settlement of the claim if plaintiff did not bring the threatened suit, or similar misrepresentations or conduct on the defendant’s part.”

The court said that the woman’s complaint was “replete with allegations that the Archdiocese intimidated her into believing that the pregnancy was solely her fault, pressured her into giving up her child, and coerced her into remaining silent about the identity of her child’s father. She was led to believe that her child would not be baptized absent an adoption.”  It also said that she had successful alleged that her reliance was reasonable and in good father asserting that because of “religious indoctrination,” her reliance was “both reasonable and in good faith.”    The Archdiocese announced it will appeal the ruling.  News Source.  Dan Horn, Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati.com. Please click here for the complete story (last visited May 7, 2006, reo). The decision, Jane Doe v. Archdiocese of Cincinnati, may be obtained by clicking here (last visited May 7, 2006, reo).

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