This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Filed May 15, 2007
Dakota County District Court
File No. 19-C7-04-10286
John E. Mack, Mack & Daby, P.A., P. O. Box 302,
Considered and decided by Worke, Presiding Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Peterson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
On appeal from summary judgment dismissing his action for damages arising out of alleged sexual abuse by respondent, appellant argues that the statute of limitations under Minn. Stat. § 541.15(a) (2004) is six years from the date the minor reaches the age of 18 years, not one year as the district court ruled. We reverse.
D E C I S I O N
“On an appeal from summary judgment,
we ask two questions: (1) whether there are any genuine issues of material fact
and (2) whether the [district] court erred in [its] application of the
law.” State by Cooper v. French, 460 N.W.2d 2, 4 (
On November 5, 20041, appellant Edward Behnke initiated a lawsuit against his father, respondent Steven Behnke, alleging incidents of sexual abuse committed against appellant by respondent from approximately 1991 to 1993, while appellant was a minor. Appellant turned 18 on February 12, 2003. The district court later granted respondent’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case as a matter of law, concluding that the statute of limitations for such an action had expired.
Appellant argues that the district
court erred in its application of the law by concluding that the statute-of-limitations
period had expired. “An action for damages based on personal injury caused by sexual
abuse must be commenced within six years of the time the plaintiff knew or had
reason to know that the injury was caused by the sexual abuse.” Minn.Stat. § 541.073, subd. 2(a) (2004). However, the
circumstance of childhood “suspend[s] the running of the period of limitation”
until the child becomes age 18.
Here, the district court found that under Minn. Stat. § 541.073, subd. 2 (2004):
[A]n action for damages based on personal injury caused by sexual abuse must be commenced within six years of the time [appellant] knew or had reason to know that the injury was caused by the sexual abuse. However, if [appellant] is within the age of 18 years when the cause of action accrued, the running of the period of limitation is suspended until one year after the child reaches the age of majority.
The district court concluded that the limitation period had expired because the period began to run in 1996, when appellant first acknowledged that his injury had been caused by the abuse. The district court found that because appellant was a minor when the abuse occurred, the limitation period was suspended “until one year after [appellant] reached the age of majority. . . . The statute of limitations ran on February 12, 2004.” The district court granted respondent’s motion for summary judgment because appellant initiated the lawsuit after the limitations period had expired.
The district court’s interpretation
of the delayed-discovery statute, however, has been struck down by the
Minnesota Supreme Court. In D.M.S. v. Barber, the supreme court held
that “[r]eading the delayed discovery statute [as expiring when the plaintiff
reached the age of 19 or six years from the date of the abuse, whichever is
later] would defeat its purpose and render the statute meaningless for
children.” D.M.S. v. Barber, 645 N.W.2d 383, 390 (
1 The district court order states that appellant commenced this lawsuit by service of the summons and complaint upon respondent on October 28, 2004; however, the affidavit of service reflects that the pleadings were personally served upon respondent on November 5, 2004. This discrepancy does not affect the outcome of this decision.