H.B. v. M.J., 011521 KSCA, 121, 768

Docket Nº:121, 768
Opinion Judge:Warner, J.
Party Name:John Doe H.B., an Individual, Appellee, v. M.J., Individually and in his Capacity as a Priest at St. Matthew Parish, and The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, a Kansas Not for Profit Corporation, Appellants.
Attorney:Chad E. Blomberg, Mara H. Cohara, and Elizabeth D. Hatting, of Lathrop GPM LLP, of Kansas City, Missouri, Carrie E. Josserand, of the same firm, of Overland Park, and Ross Henry Stewart, of Stewart Law Office, LLC, of Overland Park, for appellants. Rebecca M. Randles, of Randles Mata, LLC, of Kan...
Judge Panel:Before Bruns, P.J., Warner, J., and Burgess, S.J.
Case Date:January 15, 2021
Court:Court of Appeals of Kansas

John Doe H.B., an Individual, Appellee,

v.

M.J., Individually and in his Capacity as a Priest at St. Matthew Parish, and The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, a Kansas Not for Profit Corporation, Appellants.

No. 121, 768

Court of Appeals of Kansas

January 15, 2021

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1.

Motions for judgment on the pleadings and motions for summary judgment test the legal tenability of the parties' claims and defenses. In the case of both motions, the moving party asserts that even if all the facts alleged or discovered were true, the movant would still be entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The difference between these requests lies in their scope: Motions for judgment on the pleadings, like motions to dismiss, are limited to a review of the pleadings themselves. Motions for summary judgment consider all the facts disclosed during the discovery process.

2.

When a defendant moves for judgment on the pleadings under K.S.A. 60-212(c), the court is called on to determine whether-assuming all the allegations in the petition are true-the plaintiff has stated a legally cognizable claim. Motions under K.S.A. 60-212(c) allow courts to dispose of claims as a matter of law when the pleadings frame the issues such that there are no real issues to be tried. But when the pleadings disclose factual issues that must be resolved, judgment under K.S.A. 60-212(c) is improper.

3.

Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits or declarations show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, a party must show that there is nothing a fact-finder could decide that would change the outcome of the case. If a party opposing a motion for summary judgment points to evidence that creates a genuine question for the fact-finder to resolve, summary judgment should be denied.

4.

In ruling on a summary-judgment motion, a district court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, giving that party the benefit of every reasonable inference drawn from the evidentiary record. Appellate courts apply this same framework on appeal, exercising de novo review.

5.

There are two types of statutory timeframes that may apply in a case: statutes of limitations and statutes of repose. A statute of limitations sets a time period in which a plaintiff may file a particular claim, beginning when a claim accrues and ending after a specified length of time. A statute of repose cuts off the time a claim may be asserted under any circumstances.

6.

K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 60-523 only applies to injuries suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse that occurred within the 8 years before K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 60-523 became effective-that is, abuse that occurred on or after July 1, 1984.

7.

Courts' primary aim during statutory interpretation is to determine the legislature's intent in enacting the law in question. Courts do this by examining the statute's text, giving common words their ordinary meanings. But this analysis does not occur in isolation. Rather, courts must consider various related statutory provisions in context-in pari materia-and seek to reconcile those provisions into workable harmony.

8.

K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 60-523 applies broadly to any action for damages, so long as those damages flow from-were "suffered as a result of"-childhood sexual abuse. This includes negligence claims against an institution for injuries that result from those abusive acts.

9.

Kansas continues to follow rules of notice pleading. Thus, a petition must be broadly construed to determine whether, when read in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the petition states a cognizable claim for relief.

10.

It is not the role of a court at summary judgment to assess witness credibility or weigh conflicting evidence. Rather, when genuine issues of material fact remain unresolved, summary judgment must be denied.

Appeal from Wyandotte District Court; Bill Klapper, judge.

Chad E. Blomberg, Mara H. Cohara, and Elizabeth D. Hatting, of Lathrop GPM LLP, of Kansas City, Missouri, Carrie E. Josserand, of the same firm, of Overland Park, and Ross Henry Stewart, of Stewart Law Office, LLC, of Overland Park, for appellants.

Rebecca M. Randles, of Randles Mata, LLC, of Kansas City, Missouri, for appellee.

Before Bruns, P.J., Warner, J., and Burgess, S.J.

Warner, J.

Ordinarily, a plaintiff must assert tort claims within 1 to 2 years after he or she is injured. This timeframe prevents witnesses' memories and other evidence from going stale with the passage of time. But the Kansas Legislature has recognized that some types of claims-such as claims for injuries suffered by a minor-may warrant a longer timeline for filing suit.

This case involves a special statutory timeline for claims for damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse. Under K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 60-523, a plaintiff may file suit up to 3 years after the person learns that his or her injury resulted from such abuse- even if that causation is determined years or decades later. This statute applies to injuries resulting from childhood abuse that occurred on or after July 1, 1984.

John Doe H.B. filed this suit in August 2017, alleging he was sexually abused by a Catholic priest more than 30 years ago. H.B.'s petition included claims against the former priest who committed the abuse and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, for failing to train and supervise the priest and failing to warn or protect H.B. After limited discovery, the defendants filed motions for summary judgment, alleging H.B.'s injuries occurred before July 1984 and that he filed his petition more than 3 years after he discovered them. The Archdiocese also claimed that the extended timeline in K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 60-523 only applied to claims against sexual perpetrators, not institutional defendants who did not personally commit the abuse.

The district court denied the defendants' motions, finding disputed issues of fact remained regarding when the last instance of sexual abuse occurred and when H.B. reasonably discovered that his injuries resulted from that abuse. The court also interpreted K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 60-523 broadly to apply to any claims for damages caused by childhood sexual abuse, whether against the individual perpetrator or another defendant. We granted the defendants' application for an interlocutory appeal of these findings. After carefully considering the relevant statutes, the parties' arguments, and the record before us, we affirm the district court's ruling.

Factual and Procedural Background

On August 31, 2017, H.B. filed a petition against M.J., a former Catholic priest, individually and in his capacity as a priest for the Archdiocese in the 1980s. H.B. alleged that M.J. had engaged in a pattern of sexual abuse when M.J. was assigned to parishes in northeast Kansas. H.B.'s petition also asserted multiple claims against the Archdiocese, alleging that the church failed to train and supervise M.J., failed to warn H.B. of M.J.'s behavior and protect H.B., and attempted to cover up M.J.'s misconduct.

H.B.'s petition stated that M.J. had sexually abused H.B. multiple times at the rectory at St. Matthew's parish in Topeka, where M.J. lived. H.B. also alleged that M.J. abused him at the Topeka YMCA and the Athletic Men's Club, as well as on road trips to other churches and to M.J.'s parents' house. H.B. asserted that "[m]ultiple priests and lay persons within the Archdiocese knew or should have known that [M.J.] was sexually abusing children, including [himself]." H.B.'s petition alleged that this abuse occurred when he was approximately between the ages of 9 and 12 years old and between his fourth- and seventh-grade years.

In his petition, H.B. alleged that the years of abuse caused him "to develop various psychological coping mechanisms and symptoms of psychological distress, including great shame, guilt, self-blame and depression [that rendered him] unable [to] discover that he was a victim of sexual abuse." He stated that he had "repressed all memory of the abuse until approximately late fall 2015 when news reports of sexual abuse by priests incardinated in Guam [where H.B. lives] hit the media."

Kansas statutes require any claim for damages, including claims of childhood sexual abuse, to be brought within certain time periods. Relevant here: • K.S.A. 60-515 governs claims by people who are under a legal disability, which includes minors. This statute allows anyone who suffers an injury while he or she is under the age of 18 to bring a claim within 1 year of reaching the age of majority. K.S.A. 60-515(a). At the same time, no claims may be brought, as a matter of law, more than 8 years after the offending act. K.S.A. 60-515(a).

• The only exception to these time limitations are for claims of childhood sexual abuse, which are governed by K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 60-523. This statute states that claims resulting from such abuse must be brought within 3 years of when a person turns 18 or when the person reasonably should have discovered his or her injuries were caused by childhood sexual abuse, whichever is later. K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 60-523(a).

Unlike K.S.A. 60-515, K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 60-523 does not include an 8-year repose, or any repose, that extinguishes the claims to which it applies. But the extended limitations period in K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 60-523 only applies to claims that would not have been otherwise time-barred when that statute became effective on July 1, 1992. See K.S.A. 2019 Supp. 60-523(d). Practically speaking, this means that the longer...

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