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Massachusetts Law About Statutes of Limitations in Civil Sexual Abuse Cases

Massachusetts Laws

Selected Cases

Doe v. Creighton, 439 Mass. 281 (2003). "A plaintiff who brings suit beyond the normal statutory limitations period may not reach a jury simply by presenting evidence that sexual abuse took place. In order to survive a motion for summary judgment in those circumstances, a plaintiff must show that the nature of the abuse was such that it would cause an objectively reasonable person to fail to recognize the causal connection between it and the injuries that it caused."

Koe v. Mercer, 450 Mass. 97 (2007). Once a plaintiff knows of the connection, the statute of limitations begins to run, even if he does not know the "full extent or nature of [the] injury."

Phinney v. Morgan, 39 Mass. App. Ct. 202 (1995) review denied 421 Mass. 1104 (1995) The adult plaintiffs claimed they were harmed by their mother's failure to protect them from their father's sexual abuse while they were minors. The court did extend the "discovery rule" to non-perpetrators but concluded plaintiffs were still time barred.

Riley v. Presnell, 409 Mass. 239 (1991) The court decided that the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the plaintiff knows or reasonably could have known that he may have suffered injury due to the psychotherapist's conduct (discovery rule). The question of when a plaintiff should have known about his cause of action is one of fact.

Ross v. Garabedian, 433 Mass. 360 (2001). More than thirty years after allegedly being abused by a priest, plaintiff brought this action. Superior Court granted summary judgment to the defendant, since more than three years had passed. The Supreme Judicial Court held that there was a triable issue of fact as to whether the plaintiff knew both that the incidents had occurred and that they had caused him harm.

Other Web Sources

What is the Statute of Limitations in My State, SOL Reform Group. Put out by an advocacy group, provides links to civil and criminal Statutes of Limitations for all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

Print Sources

Domestic Torts: Family violence, conflict and sexual abuse, rev. ed., Thomson West, 2005.

"Limitation of Actions," 51 Am. Jur. 2d Limitation of Actions ยง 151.

"Running of Limitations Against Action for Civil Damages for Sexual Abuse of Child," 9 ALR5th 321.