• Key point. Minors who are sexually molested by church workers may not sue their church after the statute of limitations has expired. Generally, the statute of limitations begins to run on a minor's 18th birthday. In some states the statute of limitations is suspended if a church "actively conceals" the basis for a lawsuit from a victim. This may occur if church leaders fail to comply with child abuse reporting requirements under state law.
• Key point.. Minors who are sexually molested by church workers may not sue their church after the statute of limitations has expired. Generally, the statute of limitations begins to run on a minor's 18th birthday. In some states the statute of limitations does not begin to run until an adult survivor of child sexual molestation "discovers" that he or she has experienced physical or emotional suffering as a result of the molestation. Other states do not recognize this so-called "discovery rule."
A Kentucky court ruled that an adult who had been sexually molested as a minor by a teacher at a parochial school could sue the diocese that operated the school for negligent hiring, supervision, and retention. A boy (the "victim") attended a parochial school for five years. On several occasions during that time he was molested by a teacher. The victim never reported the incidents nor discussed them with anyone until 1992 (when he was 32 years old), due to feelings of shame and embarrassment. In 1992, the victim learned from television reports that the teacher had sexually abused other students. These reports brought back memories of his own abuse, and he was hospitalized three days for emotional trauma several months after the programs aired. The programs also prompted him to have several conversations with the diocese concerning the incidents and how they could have occurred. A criminal investigation resulted in the teacher being arrested and convicted of twenty-eight counts of sexual abuse of minors, as well as the filing of several civil suits by the victim and others. The victim filed his suit against the teacher and diocese in 1993. He alleged that the teacher sexually assaulted him and that the diocese negligently hired, supervised, and retained the teacher.