Judge John R. O’Malley denied the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph summary judgment Friday, after hearing arguments based on Powel v. Chaminade, which added new wording to how the statute of limitations can be applied in sexual abuse claims. The ruling allows a court to consider when a plaintiff not only recalled the alleged abuse, but recognized the harm it inflicted.
O’Malley’s decision allowed the lawsuit to proceed to a jury verdict. The Diocese settled within days.
The ruling means Missouri’s law is now similar to Canada. The 1992 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, M (K) v M (H), removed a major barrier to lawsuits by ruling that provincial limitation periods do not begin to run until the plaintiff is reasonably capable of discovering the wrongful nature of the defendant’s acts and the nexus between those acts and the plaintiff’s injuries.
Nova Scotia became the first Province to amend its Limitation of Actions Act to provide that the limitation period for sexual abuse cases does not start to run until the victim is aware of the full extent of the abuse and the injury suffered. In 1994, British Columbia amended its Limitation Act to eliminate all limitations for causes of action ‘based on misconduct of a sexual nature’ or ‘based on sexual assault’. The rest of the Provinces enacted similar legislation shortly thereafter.