Doe v. Archdiocese of Cincinnati, No. 2005-0702.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio
Writing for the CourtLundberg Stratton
Citation2006 Ohio 2625,849 N.E.2d 268,109 Ohio St.3d 491
Docket NumberNo. 2005-0734.,No. 2005-0702.
Decision Date31 May 2006
PartiesDOE, Appellee, v. ARCHDIOCESE OF CINCINNATI et al., Appellants.

Page 268

849 N.E.2d 268
109 Ohio St.3d 491
2006-Ohio-2625
DOE, Appellee,
v.
ARCHDIOCESE OF CINCINNATI et al., Appellants.
No. 2005-0702.
No. 2005-0734.
Supreme Court of Ohio.
Submitted January 25, 2006.
Decided May 31, 2006.

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COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

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Kircher Law Office, L.L.C., and Konrad Kircher, Cincinnati; and Anderson & Associates, P.A., and Jeffrey R. Anderson, for appellee.

Dinsmore & Shohl, L.L.P., Mark A. Vander Laan, and Kirk M. Wall, Columbus, for appellants Archdiocese of Cincinnati and Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk.

Helmick & Hoolahan and Catherine G. Hoolahan, Toledo, urging affirmance for amici curiae Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence and Theresa Bombrys.

Squire, Sanders & Dempsey L.L.P., David J. Young, Philomena M. Dane, and Emily E. Root, Columbus, urging reversal for amicus curiae Catholic Conference of Ohio.

LUNDBERG STRATTON, J.


{¶ 1} Today this court considers the issue of when a minor who is the victim of sexual abuse must assert claims against the employer of the perpetrator arising from the sexual abuse when at the time of the abuse, the victim knows the identity of the perpetrator, the employer of the perpetrator, and that a battery has occurred. Although we acknowledge the complex emotional issues of plaintiffs who allege that they have been the victims of sexual abuse, we are constrained to follow the law as it exists today, and we must therefore reverse the judgment of the court of appeals in this case.

I. Facts

{¶ 2} Plaintiff-appellee, John Doe, is a former parishioner of St. Michael Church in Ft. Loramie, Shelby County, Ohio. The church is owned and operated by defendant-appellant, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati at all times relevant to this lawsuit. Doe is an adult male whose identity is being protected from the public, but was revealed to defendants.

{¶ 3} Defendant-appellant Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk became Archbishop of Cincinnati in 1982 and has served continuously in that position since then. Defendant-appellant Father Thomas Hopp was an employee and agent of the archdiocese

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at all times relevant to this suit. He was assigned by the archdiocese as pro-tem administrator of St. Michael in 1980 through 1981 and as pastor at St. Denis Church in Versailles from 1981 through 1983.

{¶ 4} Doe alleges that he was molested by Hopp in approximately 1980 through 1983, when he was about 12 to 15 years old. Doe alleges that in April 2002, he first learned that there were other victims of Hopp. His complaint alleges that until that time, he had no reason to believe that the archdiocese and Pilarczyk had ever known about Hopp's abuse.

{¶ 5} On March 3, 2004, Doe filed a complaint against Hopp, the archbishop, and the archdiocese in the Shelby County Court of Common Pleas, alleging breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, liability of the archbishop and the archdiocese through respondeat superior, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and corrupt activities under R.C. 2923.31 et seq. The complaint sought compensatory and punitive damages.

{¶ 6} Pursuant to Civ.R. 12(B)(6), the archdiocese and the archbishop filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that Doe's tort claims were barred by the applicable two-year statute of limitations and that his claim under R.C. 2923.31 (the Ohio Corrupt Activities Act) was barred by the applicable five-year statute of limitations. Hopp answered, denying the allegations of abuse. The trial court dismissed Doe's complaint, holding that Doe's claims were barred by the relevant statutes of limitations.

{¶ 7} The Court of Appeals for the Third District reversed the judgment of the trial court, remanded the cause, and certified the following question: "Where a complaint alleges with considerable particularity that due to recently discovered efforts of the church to conceal its involvement, the victim of sexual abuse by a priest did not until recently have sufficient knowledge to apprise him of independent claims against the church, are those allegations subject to a Civ.R. 12(B) dismissal on the basis that under Doe [v. First United Methodist Church (1994), 68 Ohio St.3d 531, 629 N.E.2d 402], notice of sexual abuse by a priest constitutes apprisal of the possibility of any other independent claims against the church as a matter of law, so that all relevant statutes of limitations against both the priest and the church are triggered by the sexual abuse?"

{¶ 8} More succinctly stated, the narrow question we must consider is at what point a minor who is the victim of sexual abuse must assert claims against the employer of the perpetrator, when at the time of the abuse, the victim knows the identity of the perpetrator, the employer of the perpetrator, and that a battery has occurred.

{¶ 9} This cause is now before this court upon our determination that a conflict exists and upon our acceptance of a discretionary appeal.

II. History of Statutes of Limitation

{¶ 10} Through statutes of limitations, the General Assembly limits the time within which various claims may be asserted in Ohio's courts. Vaccariello v. Smith & Nephew Richards, Inc. (2002), 94 Ohio St.3d 380, 391-392, 763 N.E.2d 160 (Stratton, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part). These statutes of limitations serve a gatekeeping function for courts by (1) ensuring fairness to the defendant, (2) encouraging prompt prosecution of causes of action, (3) suppressing stale and fraudulent claims, and (4) avoiding the inconveniences engendered by delay — specifically, the difficulties of proof present in older cases. Id. See, also, O'Stricker v. Jim Walter Corp. (1983) 4

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Ohio St.3d 84, 88, 4 OBR 335, 447 N.E.2d 727.

{¶ 11} A motion to dismiss based upon a statute of limitations may be granted when the complaint shows conclusively on its face that the action is time-barred. Velotta v. Leo Petronzio Landscaping, Inc. (1982), 69 Ohio St.2d 376, 23 O.O.3d 346, 433 N.E.2d 147, paragraph three of the syllabus. In order for a court to dismiss a complaint under Civ.R. 12(B)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, it must appear beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his or her claim that would entitle the plaintiff to relief. O'Brien v. Univ. Community Tenants Union, Inc. (1975), 42 Ohio St.2d 242, 245, 71 O.O.2d 223, 327 N.E.2d 753.

III. Doe v. First United Methodist Church

{¶ 12} Twenty-three years have passed since the alleged abuse occurred in this case. Thus, it is clear that unless an exception is applicable, Doe's claims are barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. Doe contends that his claims were not subject to dismissal because he alleges that he did not know until April 2002 that there were other alleged victims of Hopp, and thus, he did not discover the claims that he had until 2002.

{¶ 13} This court discussed the application of the discovery rule to child-sex-abuse cases in Doe v. First United Methodist Church, 68 Ohio St.3d 531, 629 N.E.2d 402. The court of appeals in this case noted that the parties agree that this court's decision in First United Methodist Church controls. However, the parties disagree over its effect.

{¶ 14} In Doe v. First United Methodist Church, 68 Ohio St.3d 531, 629 N.E.2d 402, we considered a case in which the plaintiff had filed a complaint against his church, his school district, and his high school choir director approximately 16 years after the alleged sexual abuse. Plaintiff sought recovery against the school district for negligence in hiring and retaining the teacher and sought recovery against the church for its negligence in failing to protect the plaintiff from the teacher's sexual misconduct. Id. at 532, 629 N.E.2d 402.

{¶ 15} The teacher, the church, and the school district filed Civ.R. 12(B)(6) motions to dismiss the complaint, arguing that plaintiff's claims were time-barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. The defendants argued that the statute commenced to run at the time the alleged abuse occurred, while the plaintiff argued that the statute commenced to run when he "discovered" that his psychological problems had been caused by the sexual misconduct of his former teacher. Id. at 532-533, 629 N.E.2d 402.

{¶ 16} This court held, "A minor who is the victim of sexual abuse has one year from the date he or she reaches the age of majority to assert any claims against the perpetrator arising from the sexual abuse where the victim knows the identity of the perpetrator and is fully aware of the fact that a battery has occurred." Id., paragraph two of the syllabus.

{¶ 17} We held that the facts and events triggering the one-year statute of limitations on the plaintiff's claims for sexual abuse did not necessarily trigger the two-year period of limitations on plaintiff's independent negligence claims against the church and school district. We noted, however, that the plaintiff had "never claimed or argued that his knowledge of the sexual abuse was insufficient to apprise him of the possibility that the church or the school district had been negligent in failing to protect him from [the allegedly abusive teacher]." Id. at 539, 629 N.E.2d

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402. Thus, we concluded that we were "left to assume that the events that triggered the one-year statute of limitations for assault and battery were no different from the events that triggered the two-year statute of limitations that applies to [the plaintiff's] negligence causes of action against the church and the school district." Id.

{¶ 18} In this case, however, Doe alleged in his complaint, "In April 2002, Plaintiff first learned that there were other victims of Hopp. Until that time, Plaintiff had no reason to believe that Defendants Archdiocese and Pilarczyk had ever known about Hopp's abuse. Until April 2002, Plaintiff's knowledge of the abuse was insufficient to apprise him of the possibility that Defendants Archdiocese and Pilarczyk were...

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221 practice notes
  • State v. Ferguson, No. 2007-1427.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • October 1, 2008
    ...unless the General Assembly specifically indicates that a statute applies retrospectively. R.C. 1.48; Doe v. Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 109 Ohio St.3d 491, 2006-Ohio-2625, 849 N.E.2d 268, ¶ 40. In the typical case, "[i]n order to overcome the presumption that a statute applies prospectively......
  • DRFP, LLC v. Republica Bolivariana De Venezuela, Case No. 2:04–CV–00793.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • May 14, 2013
    ...of equitable estoppel is to prevent actual or constructive fraud and to promote the ends of justice. Doe v. Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 109 Ohio St.3d 491, 2006–Ohio–2625, 849 N.E.2d 268, ¶ 43. A party may invoke the doctrine of equitable estoppel where it has “relied on conduct of an advers......
  • Davis v. Widman, No. 13-09-20.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • October 13, 2009
    ...LeRoy v. Allen, Yurasek, & Merklin, 114 Ohio St.3d 323, 2007-Ohio-3608, 872 N.E.2d 254, ¶ 14, citing Doe v. Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 109 Ohio St.3d 491, 2006-Ohio-2625, 849 N.E.2d 268, ¶ 11. Additionally, the complaint's allegations must be construed as true, and any reasonable inferences......
  • Lopardo v. Lehman Bros., Inc., No. 1:02 CV 764.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • March 6, 2008
    ...recognized that equitable estoppel is a defense and not an independent cause of action. See, e.g., Doe v. Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 109 Ohio St.3d 491, 502, 849 N.E.2d 268, 278 (2006)("equitable estoppel is a defense"); Holt Co. of Ohio v. Ohio Machinery Co., 2007 Ohio 5557 ¶ 28, 2007 WL 3......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
222 cases
  • State v. Ferguson, No. 2007-1427.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • October 1, 2008
    ...unless the General Assembly specifically indicates that a statute applies retrospectively. R.C. 1.48; Doe v. Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 109 Ohio St.3d 491, 2006-Ohio-2625, 849 N.E.2d 268, ¶ 40. In the typical case, "[i]n order to overcome the presumption that a statute applies prospectively......
  • DRFP, LLC v. Republica Bolivariana De Venezuela, Case No. 2:04–CV–00793.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • May 14, 2013
    ...of equitable estoppel is to prevent actual or constructive fraud and to promote the ends of justice. Doe v. Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 109 Ohio St.3d 491, 2006–Ohio–2625, 849 N.E.2d 268, ¶ 43. A party may invoke the doctrine of equitable estoppel where it has “relied on conduct of an advers......
  • Davis v. Widman, No. 13-09-20.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • October 13, 2009
    ...LeRoy v. Allen, Yurasek, & Merklin, 114 Ohio St.3d 323, 2007-Ohio-3608, 872 N.E.2d 254, ¶ 14, citing Doe v. Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 109 Ohio St.3d 491, 2006-Ohio-2625, 849 N.E.2d 268, ¶ 11. Additionally, the complaint's allegations must be construed as true, and any reasonable inferences......
  • Lopardo v. Lehman Bros., Inc., No. 1:02 CV 764.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • March 6, 2008
    ...recognized that equitable estoppel is a defense and not an independent cause of action. See, e.g., Doe v. Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 109 Ohio St.3d 491, 502, 849 N.E.2d 268, 278 (2006)("equitable estoppel is a defense"); Holt Co. of Ohio v. Ohio Machinery Co., 2007 Ohio 5557 ¶ 28, 2007 WL 3......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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