Pennsylvania Superior Court Relaxes Statute of Limitations in Sexual Abuse Case

From the Desk of Anderson Kill Philadelphia

PUBLISHED ON: July 22, 2019

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The Pennsylvania Superior Court may have done what New Jersey and New York did by statute: opened the door to claims that would otherwise be time-barred. The Superior Court recently issued a decision in Rice v. Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown that permitted three otherwise time-barred claims to proceed. The claims arose from harassment and abuse that allegedly took place decades ago, with the last alleged act of abuse happening in 1981. Plaintiff Renee Rice alleged fraud, constructive fraud, and civil conspiracy.

The Blair County trial court had dismissed the plaintiff’s claims as barred by the statute of limitations, which would have required Ms. Rice to file her claims within two years of her eighteenth birthday (assuming the statute of limitations was not otherwise tolled). See 42 Pa.C.S.A. 5533 (b)(1). Ms. Rice did not file her claims when she was 20 — she filed them 35 years later, after alleging she learned of a cover-up through the issuance of a grand jury report in 2016.