One of the biggest challenges we face representing adult victims of child sexual abuse is the Statute of Limitations defense. In simplest terms, the Florida Legislature has developed different time limits within which injured or aggrieved people must bring an action. These time limits are different – depending upon the subject matter of the case. Once the time limit has run, the case is over and no money changes hands.
The Idaho Supreme Court recently decided a case that may help adults who were victims of child sex abuse here in Florida. The Idaho case involves several grown men who have filed suit against Boy Scouts of America and the Mormon church for sex abuse that the men suffered at the hands of scout leaders when they were boys back in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
However, the men have not sued on a common personal injury or assault and battery cause of action. Instead, the men have alleged that the Boy Scouts and church should be held liable for constructive fraud. Constructive fraud means that the Boy Scouts knew or should have known that the boys were vulnerable and that several of the scout leaders were known or suspected pedophiles serving, and therefore should have warned the boys. The allegations are that this failure to warn amounted to a breach of a duty of trust owed to the boys.
As is typical in these cases, the Boy Scouts have argued that the mens’ claims are too old and that because of the Statute of Limitations, the case should be struck by the courts.
However, the Idaho Supreme Court decided that, because the lawsuit was brought under a constructive fraud theory, the typical personal injury Statute of Limitations does not apply. Instead, the longer Statute of Limitations for constructive fraud applies, which doesn’t begin to run until the Plaintiff became aware of the fraud or dishonesty of the Defendant – here, the Boy Scouts.
This decision could have an important impact on Florida child sex abuse cases. The Idaho Supreme Court can now be cited by Florida lawyers if we make constructive fraud allegations in our child sexual abuse Complaints.
If you have any questions regarding a potential Florida child sexual abuse case, or if you were sexually victimized as a child in Florida, please call Winter Park child sex abuse attorneys Kim Cullen and Robert Hemphill at 407-644-4444. There may be one or more time limits ticking against your case right now, so please don’t delay in calling.