Statutes of Limitations
Key point 10-16.04. The statute of limitations specifies the deadline for filing a civil lawsuit. Lawsuits cannot be brought after this deadline has passed. There are a few exceptions that have been recognized by some courts: (1) The statute of limitations for injuries suffered by a minor begins to run on the minor's eighteenth birthday. (2) 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. (3) The statute of limitations does not begin to run until an adult with whom a minister or church counselor has had sexual contact "discovers" that his or her psychological damages were caused by the inappropriate contact. (4) The statute of limitations is suspended due to fraud or concealment of a cause of action.
1. In General
Statutes of limitation specify the deadline for filing a civil lawsuit. Most states have several of these statutes, with each pertaining to designated kinds of claims. For example, there often are different statutes of limitation for bringing contract, personal injury, and property damage claims, with different deadlines for each kind of claim. Persons who do not file a lawsuit by the deadline specified by law generally have no legal recourse.
Key point. This chapter does not address statutes of limitations for criminal prosecutions of persons whose actions violate state or federal criminal law.
2. Extending the Statute of Limitations—Injuries to Minors
The time limit prescribed by a statute of limitations does not begin to "run" in the case of injuries to a minor until the minor's eighteenth birthday. To illustrate, if the statute of limitations for personal injuries is three years in a particular state, and a minor is injured in an automobile accident, the minor has until his or her twenty-first birthday to file a lawsuit seeking damages. The three-year statute of limitations period begins to run on the minor's eighteenth birthday.
Example. A four-year-old child is molested by a volunteer worker at church. The statute of limitations for personal injuries is three years. The child has until her twenty-first birthday to file a lawsuit seeking damages for her injuries—a period of nearly 17 years.
Key point. Some states have enacted special statutes of limitation for victims of child molestation, and these supersede the statute of limitations for personal injuries.
State legislatures and courts have come up with a variety of ways to extend the statute of limitations for injuries to minors (including cases of child molestation). These include:
- The general rule is that the statute of limitations does not begin to run until a minor reaches the age of majority (18). To illustrate, if a five-year-old child is injured at church, and the applicable statute of limitations is three years, then the child will have until his or her twenty-first birthday to file a lawsuit. This is because the three-year statute of limitations does not begin to run until the victim's eighteenth birthday.
- Several states have enacted statutes that extend the statute of limitations in cases of child molestation.
- The legislatures and courts in several states have adopted the so-called "discovery rule" in cases of child molestation. According to this rule, the statute of limitations in cases of child abuse does not begin to run until the victim's eighteenth birthday, or the date that the victim "discovers" the connection between his or her emotional injuries and the abuse, whichever is later.
- Some courts have suspended ("tolled") the statute of limitations in cases of child molestation on the basis of fraud.
The last three of these grounds for extending the statute of limitations are summarized in the following subsections.
3. Extending the Statute of Limitations—State Statutes
Several states have enacted statutes that extend the statute of limitations in cases of child molestation. Consider the following examples:
• Extending the Statute of Limitations—the "Discovery Rule"
Most states have adopted, either through legislation or court decision, a limited exception to the statute of limitations known as the discovery rule. Under this rule, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until a person realizes that his or her injuries were caused by a particular event or condition. The discovery rule has been applied most often in the following three contexts:
(1) Medical malpractice. In some cases, medical malpractice is difficult if not impossible to recognize until after the statute of limitations has expired. To illustrate, if a surgeon inadvertently leaves a scalpel in a patient's body during an operation, and the patient does not discover this fact until after the statute of limitations for medical malpractice has expired, he should not be denied his day in court. Under the discovery rule, the statute of limitations begins to run not when the malpractice occurred, but when the patient knew or should have known of it.
(2) Child molestation. Some courts have applied the discovery rule in cases of child molestation. These courts have concluded that young children may "block out" memories of molestation, and not recall what happened for many years. The statute of limitations does not begin to run until the victim's eighteenth birthday, or until the victim knew or should have known that his or her emotional or physical injuries were caused by the acts of molestation. Courts that have applied this rule generally have limited it to victims who were very young at the time of the molestation. Adults who claim that they repressed memories of molestation occurring when they were adolescents have had a very difficult time convincing juries that they are telling the truth.
(3) Seduction of adult counselees. Some courts have applied the discovery rule in cases of sexual contact between a minister and an adult counselee. These courts have concluded that adults who engage in such acts with a minister may attempt to repress their memory of them, or be so intimated by the authority of the minister that they lack the capacity to file a lawsuit.
Key point. The discovery rule presents extraordinary difficulties for a church that is sued as a result of an alleged incident of sexual misconduct that occurred many years ago. In some cases, church leaders cannot even remember the alleged wrongdoer, much less the precautions that were followed in selecting or supervising this person. Because of these difficulties, a majority of states have rejected the discovery rule, or interpreted it very narrowly. See, e.g., Tichenor v. Roman Catholic Church, 32 F.3d 953 (5th Cir. 1994) (applying Mississippi law); Cherepski v. Walters, 913 S.W.2d 761 (Ark. 1996); Hertel v. Sullivan, 633 N.E.2d 36 (Ill. App. 1994).
• The Supreme Court of Alabama ruled that the statute of limitations prevented an adult from suing a church for damages he allegedly suffered as a minor when he was molested by a priest. Travis v. Ziter, 681 So.2d 1348 (Ala. 1996). The victim asserted that he was unaware that his emotional problems were associated with the abuse until he met with a counselor as an adult. He filed a lawsuit within the next year—some fifteen years after the last act of abuse. The victim sued the church, claiming that it was responsible for his injuries on the basis of negligent hiring and supervision of the priest, and breach of a fiduciary duty. At the time, the statute of limitations on such claims was two years under Alabama law, beginning when the victim reached age eighteen. Since that period had long expired before the victim filed his lawsuit, he claimed that the statute of limitations should be suspended until he first became aware that his problems resulted from the abuse. The victim insisted that he suffered from a "post-traumatic stress disorder" that caused him to repress all memory of the abuse until he saw a counselor. A court refused to suspend the statute of limitations, and ruled that the victim's claims against the church had to be dismissed since they were filed too late. It began its opinion by noting that "the controversial question of repressed memory of childhood sexual abuse has been the subject of numerous studies" and that a review of these studies "leads to one conclusion—there is no consensus of scientific thought in support of the repressed memory theory." The court acknowledged that "insanity" may suspend the statute of limitations in some cases, but it rejected the victim's claim that his post-traumatic stress disorder and repressed memory qualified as insanity. The court noted that most other courts have reached this same conclusion. It observed, "At its core, the statute of limitations advances the truth-seeking function of our justice system, promotes efficiency by giving plaintiffs an incentive to timely pursue claims, and promotes stability by protecting defendants from stale claims. The essence of the [victim's] claim is that plaintiffs should be able to [suspend the statute of limitations] in any situation where they can demonstrate an inability to comprehend a specific legal right, or to recall events that happened many years before, notwithstanding the fact that they have been capable of living an independent, normal, and productive life as to all other matters. Such an expansive interpretation would undermine the purpose of the statute of limitations." The court noted that allowing alleged victims to sue for incidents of child abuse many years after the statute of limitations ordinarily would have expired would put them "in subjective control" and raise the risk of allowing persons to "assert stale claims without sufficient justification or sufficient guaranties of accurate fact-finding."
• An Arizona appeals court refused to allow an adult who had been sexually molested as a child by his pastor to sue his church after the statute of limitations expired, and rejected the victim's defense that the statute of limitations should be suspended because he was suffering from "cognitive avoidance." The victim argued that a pedophile should not be rewarded by the protection of the statute of limitations when he did something so outrageous that the victim did not want to remember it. The court countered: "Fundamental policy behind statutes of limitation does not, however, equate a plaintiff who deliberately avoids a memory to a plaintiff who is in a blamelessly uninformed state. Our supreme court has determined that tolling the statute of limitations is an appropriate policy for those whose memories are inaccessible but not for those who can remember. Having found, as a matter of fact, that [the victim] was in the latter category, the trial court was legally compelled to find that the statute had not been tolled." Watson v. Roman Catholic Church, 64 P.3d 195 (Ariz. App. 2003).
• An adult sued a church alleging that he had been sexually molested when he was a minor by a priest. A psychologist testified during the trial that the best predictors for developing amnesia for incidents of abuse are "(1) young age of onset, (2) multiple incidents of abuse, and (3) severity of abuse." The psychologist concluded that Eric did not fit this profile. She also testified that only 15 to 20 percent of victims have full amnesia after childhood sexual abuse and that, in general, the majority of people retain their memories for traumatic events. Id.
• The Illinois Supreme Court refused to toll the statute of limitations in a case involving the sexual molestation of a minor female. The victim failed to file a lawsuit against various church defendants until after the statute of limitations had expired, but she argued that the discovery rule should have extended the period of time for her to sue. She noted that although she was aware of the abuse from the time it occurred, she was not aware of the connection between the abuse and her injuries. The Illinois Supreme Court held that because she had a reasonable knowledge of the abuse, her "failure to understand the connection between the abuse and other injuries [did] not toll the statute of limitations." Parks v. Kownacki, 737 N.E.2d 287 (Ill. 2000).
• The Maryland Court of Appeals (the highest state court) ruled that an adult's "repression" of memories associated with childhood sexual abuse is not a sufficient basis for suspending or delaying the statute of limitations. Doe v. Maskell, 679 A.2d 1087 (Md. 1996). See also Doe v. Archdiocese of Washington, 689 A.2d 634 (Md. App. 1997). Two female students at a Catholic high school alleged that they were subjected to severe and repeated acts of sexual molestation by a priest to whom they had been sent for counseling. They alleged that the molestation began when they were in ninth grade and continued all the way up until their graduation. The victims claimed that following their graduation from high school, they "ceased to recall" the abuse due to the process of "repression." It was not until twenty years later, during counseling, that they "recovered" their memories of the abuse. They filed a lawsuit against the priest, their former school, and the archdiocese. A state appeals court ruled that the lawsuit had to be dismissed on the basis of the statute of limitations. Maryland law requires such lawsuits to be filed within three years after a minor attains her eighteenth birthday. The court acknowledged that in some cases the "discovery rule" has been applied—meaning that the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the victim "discovers" that his or her injuries were caused by a particular event. However, the court refused to apply the discovery rule to cases of recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse. It reached the following conclusions: (1) The concept of repression is defined as the selective and involuntary forgetting of information that causes pain. Repressed information is not forgotten, but instead is stored in the unconsciousness and may be recovered at a later time if the anxiety associated with the memory is removed. (2) Several professional studies attempt to validate the concept of repression. (3) Several other professional studies discredit the concept of repression. These studies assert that there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support the claim that repression exists. (4) It is impossible to distinguish between repression and "faking." (5) Since serious disagreement exists within the psychological community regarding the validity of repression theory, it would be inappropriate for a court to recognize it. The court concluded that "we are unconvinced that repression exists as a phenomenon separate and apart from the normal process of forgetting." And, because the discovery rule does not help those who merely forget their injuries or legal claims, it should not help those who claim that their memories were repressed and later recovered.
• A Minnesota court ruled that a woman's lawsuit against a denominational agency for her molestation by a priest when she was a minor was barred by the statute of limitations. ABC & XYZ v. Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, 513 N.W.2d 482 (Minn. App. 1994). Accord S.E. v. Shattuck-St. Mary's School, 533 N.W.2d 628 (Minn. App. 1995); M.L. v. Magnuson, 531 N.W.2d 831 (Minn. App. 1995); Roe v. Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, 518 N.W.2d 629 (Minn. App. 1994). Contra Winkler v. Magnuson, 539 N.W.2d 821 (Minn.203 App. 1995); Doe v. Redeemer Lutheran Church, 531 N.W.2d 897 (Minn. App. 1995); Blackowiak v. Kemp, 528 N.W.2d 247 (Minn. App. 1995). The woman claimed that a priest sexually abused her over a period of 11 years beginning when she was 15. As their relationship progressed, the priest expressed to the victim his internal conflict over choosing between his love for her and his love for the church. Throughout their relationship, the victim knew that the priest had taken a vow of celibacy and that his conduct with her was inappropriate. As an adult, the victim learned that the priest was engaging in similar behavior with other women. She met another victim, and they shared their experiences. This information was devastating to the victim. She immediately sought professional counseling and experienced radical personality changes. The victim sued the priest and her archdiocese. A state appeals court ruled that the woman's lawsuit was barred by the statute of limitations. Minnesota law provides that "[a]n action for damages based on personal injury caused by sexual abuse must be commenced within six years of the time the plaintiff knew or had reason to know that the injury was caused by the sexual abuse." The victim claimed that not until she received counseling as an adult did she see the situation clearly and recognize that she had been a victim of abuse. Accordingly, she asserted that the statute of limitations began running when she began counseling. The court rejected the victim's argument on the basis of several facts including the following: the victim was aware that priests were unable to marry and must remain celibate; she knew that their relationship violated these rules and therefore she tried to keep their relationship secret; she frequently cried after sexual relations or out of town trips with the priest because she was struggling with the situation; and she informed several friends, and eventually her husband, about the priest's actions. The court concluded that this evidence "establishes overwhelmingly that, under a reasonable person standard, [the victim] should have known … that she had been abused as a minor and as an adult."
• A federal court in New York refused to find a pastor guilty of malpractice on the basis of his alleged sexual seduction of a church member he had counseled for several years. Schmidt v. Bishop, 779 F. Supp. 321 (S.D.N.Y. 1991). Accord Bassile v. Covenant House, 575 N.Y.S.2d 233 (Sup. 1991); Gallas v. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, 587 N.Y.S.2d 82 (Sup. 1989). The court noted that neither the legislature nor the courts of New York had ever recognized clergy malpractice as a basis of legal liability. Further, to do so would violate the First Amendment guaranty of religious freedom. The court also refused to hold the pastor's church and denomination liable on the basis of "negligent placement, retention, or supervision" and ruled that the woman's lawsuit was barred by the statute of limitations. It noted that the statute of limitations for negligence and malpractice, under New York law, is three years. Since the alleged malpractice first occurred nearly 30 years ago, the woman's claims obviously were barred by the statute of limitations. The woman attempted to avoid the application of the statute of limitations in three ways, each of which was rejected by the court. First, she asked the court to apply the "delayed discovery" doctrine. By this she meant that the statute of limitations should not start until a person "knows or should have known of the injury and the defendant's role in causing that injury." The court acknowledged that some states have adopted such a rule, particularly in the context of child sexual abuse cases. It noted that "the argument for a delayed discovery rule in this context, simply stated, is that victims of child sexual abuse often do not realize until years later either that they have been abused at all or the scope of their injuries." However, the court rejected this view: "Persuasive though this argument may be, there is not authority for the adoption of such a rule in child sex abuse cases in New York. … [The New York courts] have steadfastly declined to alter the traditional New York rule that the statute of limitations commences to run when a cause of action accrues, even though the plaintiff is unaware that he has a cause of action." Next, the woman argued that the pastor should be prohibited from relying on the statute of limitations because of his "misrepresentations." The court agreed that the statute of limitations can be suspended if a party's fraud or "active concealment" prevents a plaintiff from filing a timely claim. However, it disagreed that this rule applied in the present case, since the pastor had done nothing to prevent the woman from filing a timely lawsuit. Third, the woman argued that the statute of limitations should be suspended because she was "under duress." The court rejected this claim as well: "This requirement has been applied strictly; courts confronted by facts which might suggest to the layman that duress is present have routinely refused to apply the doctrine. … Indeed, the cases are replete with statements … to the effect that the statute begins to run irrespective of whether the party seeking to avoid it has enough courage and independence to resist a hostile influence and assert his rights or not. … In light of these authorities, it appears that duress is not an element of [the woman's] claims. Even if it were, it is extremely doubtful whether any reasonable juror could find that [she] was under constant legal duress for a 31-year period, during most of which she lived half a continent away from the [pastor]."
• The Ohio Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit brought by a 25-year-old man who had been repeatedly molested as a minor by a church choir director. Doe v. First United Methodist Church, 629 N.E.2d 402 (Ohio 1994). The victim had been molested by his church choir director on nearly 300 occasions over a period of three years when he was between 15 and 18 years of age. Shortly after his 25th birthday, the victim filed a lawsuit against the choir director and his church. He alleged that the director was guilty of assault and battery, and that the church had been negligent in the selection and supervision of the choir director. Ohio has a one-year statute of limitations for assault and battery, meaning that a lawsuit alleging assault and battery must be brought within one year following the alleged wrongdoing. Ohio has a two-year statute of limitations for bodily injury resulting from negligence. Obviously, these statutes had expired long before the victim brought his lawsuit. However, the victim insisted that the statutes had not expired since he did not "discover" the nature and extent of his injuries until he sought psychological help shortly before filing his lawsuit. The court disagreed. It observed, "Given the facts of this case, even if this court were to adopt, now or in the future, a rule of discovery for cases of sexual abuse, the rule would not apply to toll the periods of limitations beyond [the victim's] eighteenth birthday. Here, the facts clearly establish that at the time [he] reached the age of majority, [he] knew that he had been sexually abused by [the choir director]. [The choir director] allegedly initiated homosexual conduct with [the victim] on two hundred to three hundred separate occasions without [his] consent. During the period of sexual abuse, [the victim] was fourteen to seventeen years of age. Apparently, the last act of sexual battery occurred just months prior to [the victim's] eighteenth birthday. After graduating from high school, [he] became preoccupied with his sexual identity and suffered from depression, guilt, anger and anxiety. [He] eventually sought psychological help … and told his psychologist of the prior sexual encounters with [the choir director]. … [U]pon reaching the age of majority, [the victim] knew that he had been sexually abused, and he knew the identity of the perpetrator. Although [he] may not have discovered the full extent of his psychological injuries … the fact that [he] was aware upon reaching the age of majority that he had been sexually abused by [the choir director] was sufficient to trigger the commencement of the statute of limitations. …"
• A Pennsylvania court ruled that a 27-year-old adult was barred by the statute of limitations from suing a priest and his church on account of the priest's alleged acts of molestation. E.J.M. v. Archdiocese of Philadelphia, 622 A.2d 1388 (Pa. Super. 1993). The victim alleged that the priest had molested him when he was an adolescent on numerous occasions. In explaining the delay in filing the lawsuit, the victim claimed that he did not "become aware" of or discover the psychological and emotional injuries he suffered as a result of the abuse for several years after he became an adult. A trial court dismissed the lawsuit, concluding that it was barred by a Pennsylvania statute of limitations which requires that lawsuits be filed within two years of the date of injury. The victim appealed, arguing that the statute of limitations should not begin to run until the date that he "discovered" that he had been injured by the priest's molestation. A state appeals court disagreed, and refused to apply the "discovery" rule in this case. It observed, "In our view … it is perfectly clear that this case does not fall within the extremely limited applicability of the Pennsylvania discovery rule. This is simply not a case where the plaintiff, despite the exercise of objectively measured reasonable diligence, could not know of his injury and its cause within the limitations period. [The victim] admits that he knew the abuse was occurring and who was inflicting it, both when it happened and throughout the eight years after the abuse ended and before appellant sued. What he did not know, i.e., that the physical acts allegedly performed on him by [the priest] were abuse and were causing psychological harm, is not relevant to a discovery rule analysis. … [The victim] need not have known that what was happening to him was abuse, i.e., was wrongful, or precisely what type of psychological or emotional harm he would suffer as a result. Once he knew what was happening and who was doing it, he had the duty to investigate these questions and to institute suit within the limitations period. Moreover, the affidavit submitted by [the victim] in opposition to summary judgment … clearly reveals that he was aware, if not that he had been abused, nevertheless that something very troubling and extraordinary was happening to him. He states that he felt confused about what [his priest] was doing to him, thought 'something was wrong with me,' and 'felt guilty and sinful.' Clearly, he not only knew all the relevant facts regarding the abuse and the abuser, but he also knew that something was very wrong with the situation in which he found himself. … [The victim] did recognize that something was amiss, and although he allegedly blamed himself for these feelings, that alone does not relieve him of the duty to investigate and bring suit within the limitations period."
• A Washington state appellate court ruled that the "discovery rule," which extends the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims until victims "discover" that their emotional injuries were caused by the abuse, enabled an adult woman to sue her former church for the child abuse she suffered as a minor based on the acts of a volunteer youth worker. B.R. v. Horsley, 345 P.3d 836 (Wash. App. 2015).
• Extending the Statute of Limitations—Fraud and Other Grounds
Some courts have permitted the statute of limitations to be suspended in limited circumstances, including fraud or the "active concealment" of the existence of a civil claim by a wrongdoer.
• 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. The victim never reported the incidents nor discussed them with anyone until he was 32 years old. It was at that time that he 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 diocese asked the trial court to dismiss the lawsuit on the ground that it was barred by the statute of limitations since it had been brought some seventeen years after the teacher's last act of molestation. The victim insisted that his lawsuit was filed on time due to the "discovery rule," and the fact that the diocese "fraudulently concealed" relevant information. Kentucky law specifies that a personal injury action must be commenced within one year "after the cause of action accrued." Generally, a cause of action is said to accrue when the injury occurs. However, in certain cases, a cause of action does not necessarily accrue when the injury occurs, but rather when the plaintiff first discovers the injury or should have reasonably discovered it. However, the court declined to apply the discovery rule to repressed memories of child molestation. It noted that the victim had not alleged memory loss but was well aware of his injury. Kentucky law also specifies that the statute of limitations is extended during the time that one party through concealment or otherwise "obstructs the prosecution" of a lawsuit. The victim claimed that the diocese should be barred from relying on the statute of limitations due to its failure to report the teacher's multiple acts of child abuse to the authorities, as well as its failure to inform students, faculty, and staff of the teacher's behavior. The diocese vigorously disagreed. It insisted that concealment alone is not enough to suspend the statute of limitations. Rather, the concealment must mislead or deceive the plaintiff so that he or she is lulled into inaction or is otherwise obstructed from investigating or instituting a lawsuit during the limitations period. The court noted that the diocese knew prior to the time when the victim was abused that the teacher had sexually abused students and would continue to be "a problem" and continued to receive reports of his sexually abusing students during at least part of the time period in which the victim was being abused. Nevertheless, the diocese took no action to discipline or sanction him, to inform other students, parents, or employees, or to report the incidents to state authorities. The information was kept secret and confidential in a personnel file, and the victim had no idea that the diocese had prior knowledge of the teacher's propensities until he watched the television programs. Until that time, the victim neither knew nor had reason to know that he had a potential cause of action against the diocese for causing injury to him due to its concealment of its knowledge of the teacher's actions toward other students. The court concluded, "The diocese clearly obstructed the prosecution of [the victim's] cause of action against it by continually concealing the fact that it had knowledge of [the teacher's] problem well before the time [the victim] was abused as well as the fact that it continued to receive reports of sexual abuse of other students during part the time period in which [the victim] was abused. Furthermore, where the law imposes a duty of disclosure, a failure of disclosure may constitute concealment. …" The child abuse reporting statute in effect when these incidents occurred imposed a legal duty on "any person" to report child abuse to law enforcement authorities. The diocese failed to comply with this duty, "and such failure constitutes evidence of concealment."
• The South Dakota Supreme Court ruled that the statute of limitations barred an adult from suing a parochial school and various church defendants for the abuse he suffered 30 years before when he was a minor attending the school. The court noted that the victim's "knowledge of the abuse, coupled with his psychological treatment for his condition, was sufficient to establish constructive knowledge of the abuse and that his injury was caused by that abuse. He was therefore … required to seek out further information and pursue his claim following his discoveries." The court rejected the victim's claim that the statute of limitations was tolled or suspended as a result of the church defendant's fraudulent concealment. Again, the court disagreed: "Fraudulent concealment does not toll the statute of limitations, no matter the nature of the concealment if a plaintiff is already on notice of facts sufficient to give rise to a claim." Zephier v. Catholic Diocese, 752 N.W.2d 658 (S.D. 2008). See also One Star v. Sisters of St. Francis, 752 N.W.2d 668 (S.D. 2008); Koenig v. Lambert, 527 N.W.2d 903 (S.D. 1995).