Ruling Issued in Favor of Clergy Abuse Survivors

The Pennsylvania Superior Court issued a ruling in the matter of Renee Rice v. Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown et al., that provides new hope for survivors of Clergy Abuse that fear their claims are barred by the Statute of Limitations.

Ms. Rice was abused by an Altoona-Johnstown priest in the late 1970s and early ’80s, but only filed suit in the wake of the August 14, 2018 Grand Jury Report from the Office of Attorney General, which details extensively how claims of predatory conduct by clergy members across Pennsylvania were actively concealed by the Catholic Church. The trial court dismissed Ms. Rice’s sexual abuse case against the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, finding that Ms. Rice’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations.

On appeal, Ms. Rice argued on appeal that the statute of limitations on her lawsuit could not have started to run until she discovered, as a result of the Attorney General’s Report, that she might have claims against the diocese itself for its role in protecting her abuser. Specifically, Ms. Rice contended that no reasonable person would have suspected, much less investigated, the Diocesan Defendants for the abuse she alleged until the Grand Jury Report became public. Moreover, she averred that no inquiry could have obtained the information revealed in the Grand Jury Report because the Diocesan Defendants suppressed it within their “secret archive.” Simply put, there was no “reason to awaken inquiry and direct diligence in the channel in which it would be successful.”

Upon review, the Superior Court agreed with Ms. Rice, and held that a jury must decide whether an active conspiracy to conceal abuse by the Catholic Church prevented the plaintiff from bringing her claims within the limitations period.

This ruling breathes new life into other claims which the Catholic Church has contended are time barred. If you or a family member have suffered abuse at the hands of the Catholic Church, contact our office today. We are committed to obtaining justice for victims of clergy abuse.

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With more than 40 years of combined experience, the personal injury attorneys at Fellerman & Ciarimboli strive to provide the best service to clients in Philadelphia, Northeast Pennsylvania, and throughout the Keystone State.

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