Pennsylvania Priest Sex Abuse Law: The Fraudulent Concealment Exception to the Statute of Limitations

Laffey Bucci D’Andrea Reich & Ryan

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A defendant’s fraudulent concealment will toll the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania child and priest sex abuse cases.

Several Pennsylvania courts have discussed the issue of fraudulent concealment and tolling the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases. The most recent case is Delaney v. Archdiocese of Philadelphia, a 2007 Superior Court case.

In Delaney, the plaintiff alleged that he was sexually abused by a Catholic priest beginning when he was eleven years old in 1982 and that the abuse continued until he was seventeen years old in 1988. Plaintiff argued that the Archdiocese engaged in fraudulent concealment by reassigning the pedophile priest to another church under the guise of the priest’s sick leave.

The crux of a fraudulent concealment argument in Pennsylvania sex abuse cases is that a defendant’s actions caused the sex abuse victim to cease or suspend pursuit of their claims. Facts which are likely to rise to the level of fraudulent concealment include:

  • a defendant’s statements or misrepresentations that abuse did not occur,
  • a defendant’s statements or misrepresentations that the offending priest did not commit the abuse,
  • a defendant’s false statements or misrepresentations about the offending priest’s whereabouts, or
  • a defendant’s false statements or misrepresentations about the offending priest’s identity.

In dismissing the plaintiff’s case as time-barred, the Delaney court stated: “Appellant [victim] has not put forth any evidence to indicate that he made any inquiries of Appellees [Archdiocese] prior to August of 2005 regarding his potential causes of action. Appellant does not allege that Appellees’ re-assignment of Father Brzyski from St. Cecilia and listing him on “sick leave” misled Appellant or his parents into believing that the alleged sexual abuse did not occur, that it had not been committed by Father Brzyski, or that the alleged sexual abuse had not resulted in injury to Appellant. Appellees never concealed from Appellant or his parents the fact of the injury itself. Nor does Appellant allege that he or his parents were lied to by Appellees with regard to the identity of his abuser or his abuser’s place within the Archdiocese, which if relied upon would have caused him and/or his parents to suspend pursuit of their claims.”

Proper investigation is crucial in analyzing sex abuse cases and the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania.

If you’d like to discuss your Pennsylvania or New Jersey priest/clergy sex abuse case with our crime victims lawyers, call 800-220-7600. Former sex crimes unit prosecutor and now civil crime victims lawyer, Guy D’Andrea, always offers free, confidential consultations.

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