Wednesday, June 7, 2006
Case Law Development: Mississippi Appeals Court Rules Woman Waited Too Long to File Action against Diocese in Case Alleging She was the Victim Sexual Abuse By a Priest
The Mississippi Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that a woman alleging abuse by two priests in the 1970s waited too long to bring her suit against the Catholic Diocese of Jackson. It is reported that in 2003 the Diocese admitted that she was sexually abused by two priests.
The woman argued that the Mississippi six year statute of limitations, which began to run when she reached age 21, should have been tolled because “she did not psychologically comprehend that the priests’ acts were abuse, she did not connect the priests’ actions to her emotional problems, and she only recently began to psychologically comprehend that the priests’ acts were abusive and the cause of her injuries.” The Court of Appeals rejected the argument stating the exception to the six-year statute required evidence of a “latent injury.” Under Mississippi law, “latent injury” is defined as “one where the plaintiff is precluded from discovery of the harm or injury because of the secretive or inherently undiscoverable nature of the wrongdoing in question, or when it is unrealistic to expect a layman to perceive the injury at the time of the wrongful act.” The court concluded that given the nature of the physical acts the woman allegedly endured, and her age at the time of the abuse, she was “certainly aware of the abuse at the time of its occurrence. Whether or not [she] was mentally capable of understanding the physical acts she endured when they occurred is not the critical inquiry with the discovery rule.” For a copy of the slip opinion of the Mississippi Court of Appeals in Doe v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Jackson, please click here (last visited June 7, 2006, reo).