February 23, 2006

N.Y. High Court: Missed Deadlines Halt Claims of Clergy Abuse


John Caher
New York Law Journal

New York's Court of Appeals Tuesday closed the door to time-barred clergy abuse claims in a ruling that shifts back to the state Legislature the question of whether individuals who were molested years or decades ago should have their day in court.

In two cases, one decided 6-0 and the other 5-1, the court found no basis to equitably toll the statute of limitations for victims of sexually exploitive clergy.

To do so, especially where the victim was aware of the offense when it occurred and where there is no indication the perpetrator prevented the victim from coming forward earlier, would eviscerate the statute of limitations, the court said in Zumpano v. Quinn, 1, and Estate of Boyle v. Smith, 2.

"[I]f the doctrine of equitable estoppel were to be applied as broadly as plaintiffs suggest, the statute of limitations would rarely be available as a defense," Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick wrote for the court. "Plaintiff's proposed rule would revive any lapsed claim where the defendant inflicted some type of injury upon a knowing plaintiff but failed to come forward with further information about his or her wrongdoing."

Posted by kshaw at February 23, 2006 08:04 AM