This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).






Theodore James Krammer, Jr.,





The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis,



Father Lee D. Krautkremer,



Filed January 4, 2005

Crippen, Judge


Ramsey County District Court

File No. C8-02-6634



Jeffrey R. Anderson, Patrick W. Noaker, Robin R. LeDonne, Jeff Anderson & Associates, P.A., E-1000 First National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellant)


Andrew J. Eisenzimmer, Paul L. Nevin, Meier, Kennedy & Quinn, Chtd. 2200 North Central Life Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis)


Paul Engh, Suite 215, 220 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent Father Lee D. Krautkremer)


            Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Stoneburner, Judge, and Crippen, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant Theodore Krammer filed this lawsuit against respondents Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis (the archdiocese) and Father Lee Krautkremer based on sexual abuse that occurred in 1977, when appellant was about 10 years old.  Appellant disputes the district court’s summary judgment applying the statute of limitations, Minn. Stat. § 541.073, subd. 2 (2002), to bar the assertion of his claim, contending that the archdiocese made fraudulent misrepresentations in 1983 and is consequently estopped from claiming application of the statute of limitations.  We affirm. 


            The record establishes that in 1977, when appellant was about 10 years old, respondent Krautkremer sexually abused him while they were together at a lake cabin in Wisconsin. This suit was filed in 2002.  Appellant asserts that the archdiocese is estopped from raising the defense of the statute of limitation, Minn. Stat. 541.073, subd. 2 (2002), by its fraudulent misrepresentation as to Krautkremer’s subsequent assignment, which had the potential to place him in contact with other children.

            As soon as appellant told his parents about the abuse in 1983, they contacted the archdiocese and met twice with a representative from the archdiocese.  Appellant and Krautkremer were present at the second meeting in November 1983.   Appellant asserts that at this meeting, the archdiocesan representative promised that Krautkremer would never again be placed in a position with access to children.  Although he offers no documentation contemporaneous to his 1983 meeting, appellant presently recalls being told that Krautkremer “would never be in a position to do this to anybody else ever again.”  His father recalled receiving an assurance that Krautkremer “would not be put in with children,” and his mother recalled a promise that the archdiocese would see that Krautkremer was not in a position to harm children.   Appellant contends that the archiocese intended to dishonor these assurances and, in fact, subsequently did so by placing Krautkremer in a position as a regular parish priest for approximately three years, a position where contact with children was likely.  

            A month after the 1983 meeting, the Krammers wrote to the archdiocese, expressing concern with the nature of the treatment Krautkremer was receiving and requesting reimbursement for appellant’s past and future counseling expenses.  The archdiocesan representative expressed agreement with the proposal and directed the Krammers to obtain independent counsel.  The Krammers responded that they did not currently wish to pursue the matter. 

            In 1987, appellant’s father again contacted the archdiocese, expressing concern about “what’s happening in the Church today” and inquiring about Krautkremer’s treatment and his whereabouts.  The archdiocese proposed another meeting, but the Krammers did not pursue the inquiry further.

            Appellant filed this suit when he learned that Krautkremer’s name was not on a list of priests who had committed sexual abuse.  He asserts claims against Krautkremer for sexual battery and breach of fiduciary duty and against the archdiocese for vicarious liability, negligent supervision and employment, and fraud.  Appellant also requested injunctive relief.[1]

            Respondents moved for summary judgment based on the application of the statute of limitations, Minn. Stat. § 541.073, subd. 2 (2002).  The district court granted the motion, concluding that appellant failed to establish an agreement that Krautkremer would be relieved of all duties bringing him into contact with children.  The court also rejected the claim for equitable estoppel because in 1983 the archdiocese had directed appellant and his parents to obtain independent legal counsel.

D E C I S I O N        

            Summary judgment is appropriate when no issues of material fact exist and either party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.  Minn. R. Civ. P. 56.03.  On appeal, this court reviews the evidence in the light most favorable to the party against whom summary judgment was granted.  Fabio v. Bellomo, 504 N.W.2d 758, 761 (Minn. 1993).  But no genuine issue of material fact exists “when the nonmoving party presents evidence which merely creates a metaphysical doubt as to a factual issue and which is not sufficiently probative . . . to permit reasonable persons to draw different conclusions.”   DLH, Inc. v. Russ, 566 N.W.2d 60, 71 (Minn. 1997).

            Under the delayed discovery statute, Minn. Stat. § 541.073, subd. 2(a) (2002), an action against a person who commits or permits sexual abuse must be brought within six years from the date that the plaintiff knew or had reason to know that the injury was caused by the abuse.  This statute also applies to claims of respondeat superior, based on acts of sexual abuse committed by an employee.  D.M.S. v. Barber, 645 N.W.2d 383, 391 (Minn. 2002).  Absent another disability that would delay the running of the statute of limitations, the delayed discovery statute begins to run when the sexual-abuse victim reaches the age of majority.  Id. at 389. 

            Appellant does not dispute that the application of the delayed-discovery statute to his cause of action would normally have barred this action after 1991, six years after he attained the age of majority.  But he asserts that respondents are estopped from asserting the statute-of-limitations defense because of actionable fraud.[2]  Although the existence of estoppel ordinarily creates a factual question for the jury, Brenner v. Nordby, 306 N.W.2d 126, 127 (Minn. 1981), “when only one inference can be drawn from the facts, the question is one of law.”  L & H Transp., Inc. v. Drew Agency, Inc., 403 N.W.2d 223, 227 (Minn. 1987). 

            The district court based its summary judgment partly on the lack of a necessary ingredient for establishing a fraud, the occurrence of a false representation about a past or present material fact.  See Martens v. Minn. Mining & Mfg. Co., 616 N.W.2d 732, 747 (Minn. 2000) (stating requirements for establishing prima facie case of fraud).  Although the court noted evidence that Krautkremer would receive treatment and be reassigned, it was not evident that this would constitute the promise appellant asserts, one against any future assignment of Krautkremer in which he might have unsupervised contact with children.  The court attributed no weight to present assertions of a promise that the priest would not be “in a position” to hurt children or be “put in” with them.  We conclude that there is no error in this analysis, or in the district court’s determination that the correspondence between the parties did not prove the existence of a false representation.  We are mindful that Minnesota law establishes a high threshold of proof for a claim of fraud, and neither opinions nor “general and indefinite” statements can form the basis for an actionable claim.  Id. (quotation omitted).

            The district court also found flawed appellant’s theory that the archdiocese was estopped from claiming the statute of limitations because of assurances as to Krautkremer’s future placement.   A claim for equitable estoppel arises when

one by his acts or representations, or by his silence when he ought to speak, intentionally or through culpable negligence, induces another to believe certain facts to exist, and such other rightfully acts on [that belief] in such manner that if the former is permitted to deny the existence of such facts it will prejudice the latter.


 Transamerica Ins. Group v. Paul, 267 N.W.2d 180, 183 (Minn. 1978) (quotation omitted).  A primary consideration in determining whether to invoke equitable estoppel is examining the diligence of the party in asserting its action in light of all existing circumstances.  Hydra-Mac, Inc. v. Onan Corp., 450 N.W.2d 913, 919 (Minn. 1990).  Thus, in order to resist summary judgment on a claim of equitable estoppel, the plaintiff must show specific, admissible facts creating a genuine issue for trial as to the reasonableness of reliance.  Nicollet Restoration, Inc. v. City of St. Paul, 533 N.W.2d 845, 848 (Minn. 1995). 

            The record lacks evidence of a reasonable tie between 1983 assurances and appellant’s failure to initiate a lawsuit until 2002.  As the district court observed, the archdiocese expressed agreement after its 1983 meetings with a family request for reimbursement for appellant’s past counseling expenses and creation of a trust account to pay for future therapy expenses.  The archdiocese directed that the family obtain independent legal counsel to assist with the details of this arrangement.  The family did in fact consult with counsel but opted against both initiating a suit and accepting an offer of assistance; they were not prejudiced in their ability to file a further claim.

            Appellant argues to this court that additional evidence of the 1987 inquiry about Krautkremer’s treatment and location shows that appellant trusted the archdiocese continuously to honor its promise.  But the record indicates that after appellant initiated this inquiry, he declined to meet again with the archdiocese and did not file this lawsuit until five more years had elapsed.  See Hydra-Mac, 450 N.W.2d at 920 (stating that reasonableness of promisee’s reliance encompasses examination of whether plaintiff used due diligence in filing claim after it “knew, or should have known, that further reliance was unjustifiable”). 

            Thus, we conclude that appellant’s claim of equitable estoppel is flawed both by the absence of an underlying claim of fraud and by the absence of a showing of prejudice and justifiable reliance, and we affirm the district court’s summary judgment.  

            Respondents assert, in the event that the statute of limitations does not apply to bar the assertion of this action, that appellant’s claim requires a breach-of-fiduciary-duty analysis.  We need not reach this issue in light of the foregoing disposition of the case. 


* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1] Although appellant asserts claims of fraud and equitable estoppel only against respondent archdiocese, respondent Krautkremer has joined in its brief.

[2] Because we affirm the district court’s application of Minn. Stat. § 541.073, the proper statute of limitations governing this sexual-abuse claim, we need not consider respondents’ alternative argument that appellant’s claim is barred by Minn. Stat. § 541.05, subd. 1(6) (2002), the six-year statute of limitations applicable to claims for fraud.