A Common Goal, the Prevention of Injustice
By W. Aaron Daniel
Sometimes the statute of limitations appears especially harsh. And no more so than in today’s opinion out of the Third District Court of Appeal in Rubio v. Archdiocese of Miami, Inc., No. 3D12-85 (Fla. 3d DCA April 17, 2013), authored by Judge Logue, and joined by Judges Lagoa and Salter.
The Third affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the case based on the statute of limitations, but not without a heavy heart:
In upholding the dismissal of the complaint in this case because of the delay of several decades in filing the claim, we are mindful that society benefits when survivors of child sexual abuse come forward and bear witness to what they were forced to endure as children. We certainly do not intend to discredit the courage of these survivors who break the silence that shielded their abusers. We hold only that Rubio’s lawsuit for money damages cannot be filed so long after the alleged injury was inflicted.
Rubio was attempting to avoid the statute of limitations through the doctrine of equitable estoppel; however, the Third stood firmly on the doctrine’s standard, writing that Rubio had alleged no facts that the Archdiocese caused or induced him to refrain from filing suit within the limitations period.
Citing to a Fourth District Court of Appeal case – also against the Archdiocese for similar abuse cover-ups – the Third explained why equitable estoppel didn’t apply here:
We agree with the Fourth District’s decision in John Doe No. 23. As the court found in that case, so too, here, Rubio knew the abuse had occurred, knew the identity of the abuser, and knew the abuser worked for the Archdiocese. Yet, the amended complaint fails to allege any acts of the Archdiocese towards Rubio that caused him to delay filing his claims for the three decades that elapsed since the time he had allegedly been abused as a child. As such, there is simply no basis upon which to apply the doctrine of equitable estoppel.
So here is the question: because an appellate court views all facts alleged in the complaint as true on appeal for