Oral Argument December 1, 2014
Appeal from Pierce County Superior Court. Docket No: 12-2-05018-5. Judge signing: Honorable Garold E Johnson. Judgment or order under review. Date filed: 05/03/2013.
Rebecca J. Roe and Maria Lorena Gonzalez (of Schroeter Goldmark Bender ), for appellant.
Lance M. Hester (of Hester Law Group ); and Gary A. Trabolsi (of Gardner Trabolsi & Associates PLLC ), for respondents.
Authored by Jill M Johanson. Concurring: Bradley A. Maxa, Lisa Sutton.
Jill M Johanson, J.
[186 Wn.App. 295] [¶1] The issue in this appeal is the application of the statute of limitations to a claim of childhood sexual abuse. B.R. appeals from
the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Suzanne and Frederick Horsley, Keith Timmer, and the Church of the Living Way (Horsley) finding that her claim for damages against Horsley for childhood sexual abuse was time barred [186 Wn.App. 296] under RCW 4.16.340(1). Although B.R. had counseling for the sexual abuse when she was a teenager, the record demonstrates a genuine factual dispute regarding when she discovered the extent and cause of her claimed injuries. Accordingly, we reverse the order dismissing her claims and remand for trial.
[¶2] Between June 2002 and late 2004, B.R. was sexually abused by Suzanne Horsley, an adult youth group leader at the Church of the Living Way. B.R. was 13 years old when the abuse began, and she turned 18 in September 2006. Suzanne Horsley pleaded guilty to several counts of child molestation.
[¶3] Kelly Peck, a mental health therapist, treated B.R. while she was still a minor, from October 2005 until July 2006, for symptoms related to her abuse including " stress, anxiety, depression, anger, feelings of betrayal, guilt, worry, [and] problems with memory." Clerk's Papers (CP) at 103. During the time Peck treated B.R., B.R. was not married, was not sexually active, and had never been employed. In July 2006, a few months before her 18th birthday, B.R. discontinued her treatment with Peck.
[¶4] In 2008, B.R. married the man who had been her first boyfriend. Over the next several years, B.R. and her husband struggled in their marriage. B.R. experienced sexual dysfunction and a lack of intimacy, and she and her husband argued about whether to have children. Her symptoms, including flashbacks, guilt, and other emotional problems, were worse than she had ever experienced, and the marital problems continued until their divorce in 2011. B.R. was also confused about her sexuality. She engaged in a sexual relationship with a woman that also caused significant confusion in her life.
[186 Wn.App. 297] [¶5] B.R. also experienced problems at work. These problems began in 2009, when she became a high school volleyball coach and attempted to become a firefighter. B.R. also struggled to reconnect with her religion, but the church was no longer a comforting influence in her life.
[¶6] By November 2011, B.R. was in therapy with Mary Dietzen, PhD, in Spokane. It was then that B.R. realized the serious effect of the abuse on her adult relationships, sexuality, work, and spirituality. Dr. Dietzen helped B.R. to understand how Horsley's sexual abuse triggered symptoms based on the different, new life events that B.R. was experiencing.
[¶7] On January 3, 2012, after several months of treatment with Dr. Dietzen, B.R. sued Horsley. Horsley moved for summary judgment, arguing that the statute of limitations barred B.R.'s suit. In opposition to Horsley's motion, B.R. presented portions of Dr. Dietzen's deposition, during which the following exchange, relevant to the statute of limitations, occurred:
Q. Did you ask her how long she had felt this way, that the abuse by Horsley had taken from her certain things that she felt were important, such as intimacy, sexuality, and those kinds of things?
A. I got the impression that it's been in the last, you know, two -- two-plus years, because she's holder [sic] now, she's -- she takes classes, she's out in the world, she's away from that environment, she's in a relationship -- got in this relationship with Jody.
So more of it has come to her -- you know, to the forefront in the last year or two, I would say, she's developed a lot more of an understanding of kind of the impact.
CP at 159-60. The trial court granted Horsley's motion for summary judgment, concluding that B.R.'s suit was time barred by the three-year statute of limitations. B.R. appeals that order.
[186 Wn.App. 298] ANALYSIS
[¶8] The issue here is whether reasonable persons could conclude only that B.R. realized that her injuries were connected to the childhood sexual abuse more than three years before she filed suit. We hold that there are genuine issues of material fact that preclude summary judgment ...