Tort Law

Wis. Archdiocese Can Be Sued for Fraud

It’s too late for five alleged child victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Milwaukee between 1973 and 1982 to sue the archdiocese there for negligent supervision. But it may not be too late to sue for fraud, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided today, reversing a lower court dismissal of the case.

A three-year statute of limitations bars the negligence claims, because it began on the day the sexual abuse last occurred, the court explains in a written opinion. But a six-year statute of limitations for fraud may not preclude the case, the court found, because the time clock only started running when the plaintiffs should have discovered the fraud, reports the Associated Press.

Plaintiffs in the case contend church officials fraudulently claimed two priests posed no danger to children even though they knew the two had a history of sexually abusing youths and that one had been criminally convicted of doing so. The priests were eventually transferred to California, where they molested more boys, the Tribune says.

The trial court must now establish “when the plaintiffs knew or should have known of the Archdiocese’s alleged knowledge of the priests’ past histories of sexual molestation of children,” the supreme court’s opinion says, to determine whether their fraud claims are time-barred under the six-year statute of limitations.

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