Sydney Thompson

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In January of 2002, the Boston Globe published an article detailing widespread allegations of child sexual abuse by serial pedophiles and a sophisticated coverup that implicated high ranking clergy members. In the aftermath of the article, thousands of men and women from across the United States came forward with their own allegations, which revealed patterns of abuse and deception in dioceses around the country. The wave of litigation that followed raised compelling questions about statutes of limitations, discovery rules, and the long term effects of childhood sexual abuse.

Twenty years after the Globe’s article, the Supreme Court of Georgia decided its first case involving sexual abuse allegations against the Catholic Church in Doe v. Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church. As has been true nationally, the Church raised a statute of limitations defense to combat the plaintiff’s appalling allegations. In an unexpected turn of events, the supreme court agreed with the plaintiff’s tolling argument, which was based on his assertion that the Church engaged in fraud, preventing him from discovering his legal claims decades earlier. The court’s decision to apply Georgia’s fraud statute to the plaintiff’s allegations more broadly signals significant changes in the legal treatment of childhood sexual abuse survivors in Georgia.