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Jane Roe 21 v. Defendant Doe 1 et al

December 7, 2010

JANE ROE 21, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
DEFENDANT DOE 1 ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Butz, J.

Roe 21 v. Doe 1 et al.

CA3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

This is another in a series of appeals wending their way through the appellate courts, in which adult plaintiffs have sought to hold Catholic Church entities liable for child sexual abuse perpetrated by their clergy decades ago.

These plaintiffs argue that their lawsuits are timely under the "delayed discovery rule" of Code of Civil Procedure section 340.1,*fn1 because they did not recover memory of the abuse and its connection to their psychological injuries until they were well into middle age. They maintain this position despite the fact that their lawsuits were filed well after the one-year "revival window" that the Legislature established during the calendar year 2003, to bring lapsed claims against nonabuser defendants who knew or had reason to know their agents or employees were molesting children. (§ 340.1, subd. (b)(2), (3).)

This court has weighed in on the issue on three prior occasions. (K.J. v. Roman Catholic Bishop of Stockton (2009) 172 Cal.App.4th 1388, review granted June 24, 2009, S173042; D.D. v. Roman Catholic Bishop of Stockton (Aug. 12, 2009, C057260) [nonpub. opn.], review granted Nov. 10, 2009, S176451; L.A. v. Roman Catholic Bishop of Stockton (Aug. 12, 2009, C057895) [nonpub. opn.], review granted Nov. 10, 2009, S176483.) Each time we agreed with the result reached by the Second Appellate District, Division Eight, in Hightower v. Roman Catholic Bishop of Sacramento (2006) 142 Cal.App.4th 759. Hightower held that childhood sexual molestation claims against nonabuser entity defendants that were time-barred before January 1, 2003, remain time-barred unless the victims filed suit during the one-year revival window, even if they did not recover their memory of the abuse until after the window period closed. (Hightower,at pp. 767-768.)

All three of our decisions--K.J., D.D., and L.A.--are being held by the California Supreme Court pending final adjudication in the lead case of Quarry v. Doe 1 (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 1574, review granted June 10, 2009, S171382.*fn2

We shall adhere to the position we took in our three prior decisions and affirm the judgment. Because the ultimate resolution of this issue now lies with the state high court, we will not restate our position at length. We shall merely summarize the main points and briefly respond to some of the major arguments offered by Roe.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Because this appeal arises from a judgment of dismissal following the sustaining of a demurrer without leave to amend, we give the complaint a reasonable interpretation, and accept as true all material facts properly pleaded. (Doe v. City of Los Angeles (2007) 42 Cal.4th 531, 543.) Read in that light, the first amended complaint discloses the following pertinent allegations.

Plaintiff Jane Roe 21 (hereafter Roe, a fictitious name to protect her privacy) was born in June of 1964. Beginning in fifth grade, Roe attended a Catholic school in Lodi operated by defendants The Roman Catholic Bishop of Stockton and the Pastor of St. Anne Church (collectively the Church).*fn3 The Church employed Father O'Grady, who was a "priest, counselor and spiritual leader" at the parish where Roe attended services and was a student.*fn4

Beginning in 1972 and continuing until 1976, Roe was sexually molested on multiple occasions by Father O'Grady, usually in an office, a quiet classroom, or in the confessional. The abuse consisted of inappropriate hugging, kissing and sexual touchings. Father O'Grady molested dozens of other children during his tenure as a priest. He was eventually convicted of child molestation, sent to prison and deported to Ireland. The Church knew of Father O'Grady's propensities for sexual abuse of minors prior to the time Roe was molested, yet failed to protect her from his horrendous conduct. Despite its knowledge of his nefarious history as a serial child molester, the Church assigned Father O'Grady to parishes where he continually had access to children. It also continually encouraged and induced Roe to have contact with O'Grady in an unsupervised environment.

During the time she was molested, Roe developed "various psychological coping mechanisms" which made her "incapable of ascertaining the wrongfulness of [Father] O'Grady's sexual conduct toward her." As a result, Roe "completely repressed all memory of the sexual abuse" at the time of the molestations.

In November 2006, Roe was reading a magazine article describing Father O'Grady's sexual misconduct with other minor children. This brought up "painful and disturbing memories of her own sexual molestation at the hands of [Father] O'Grady." As a result, Roe recovered her memory of the abuse, which had been previously repressed.

Father O'Grady's tortious conduct, of which the Church was aware, caused Roe to suffer shock, emotional distress, embarrassment and loss of self-esteem, all of which ...


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