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R.N. v. Redal

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

August 7, 2017

R.N., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MARK S. REDAL, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          BENJAMIN H. SETTLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 26. The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion and the remainder of the file and hereby grants the motion for the reasons stated herein.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On January 21, 2016, Plaintiffs filed their complaint in this action. Dkt. 1. On February 5, 2016, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint. Dkt. 3. Plaintiffs asserts claims against Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. at 12. On February 23, 2016, Defendants answered the amended complaint, asserting that Plaintiffs' claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Dkt. 6. at 7.

         On May 11, 2017, Defendants moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the applicable statute of limitations bars this action. Dkt. 26. On June 12, 2017, Plaintiffs responded. Dkts. 31, 34. On June 23, 2017, Defendants replied. Dkt. 40.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         This case revolves around the repeated rape and frequent sexual abuse suffered by Plaintiffs as children when Washington Department of Social and Health Services (“DSHS”) placed them in the care of the Kiwanis Vocational Home (“KVH”). The numerous instances of sexual abuse of Plaintiffs occurred from 1988 through 1991. Plaintiffs S.C., R.N., and J.W. reached the age of majority at 18 years old in 1991, 1994, and 1995, respectively. They commenced this action on January 21, 2016.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is proper only if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law when the nonmoving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of a claim in the case on which the nonmoving party has the burden of proof. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). There is no genuine issue of fact for trial where the record, taken as a whole, could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (nonmoving party must present specific, significant probative evidence, not simply “some metaphysical doubt”). See also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). Conversely, a genuine dispute over a material fact exists if there is sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute, requiring a judge or jury to resolve the differing versions of the truth. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 253 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987). The Court must construe any factual issues of controversy in favor of the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007).

         B. Accrual of Plaintiffs' 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claims

         Defendants move for summary judgment on the basis that Plaintiffs' claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The statute of limitations period for § 1983 actions is “a State's personal injury statute of limitations.” Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 240-41 (1989). Pursuant to RCW 4.16.080(2), the period of limitations in this case is three years. RK Ventures, Inc. v. City of Seattle, 307 F.3d 1045, 1058 (9th Cir. 2002). The parties do not dispute the applicable statute of limitations or applicable tolling period until Plaintiffs reached the age of majority. See Dkts. 31, 40. Instead, the parties' arguments on this motion turn exclusively on when Plaintiffs' claims accrued and the period of limitations began to run. Id.

         While state law determines the length of the limitations period, federal law determines when a claim accrues. Western Ctr. for Journalism v. Cederquist, 235 F.3d 1153, 1156 (9th Cir. 2000).[1] Under federal law, a principle known as the “discovery rule” dictates that a cause of action accrues on the date “when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of the action.” Lukovsky v. City and Cty. of S.F., 535 F.3d 1044, 1048 (9th Cir. 2008). As the Supreme Court has noted, “discovery of the injury, not discovery of the other elements of a claim, is what starts the clock.” Rotella v. Wood, 528 U.S. 549, 555 (2000).

         Other courts in this district have recognized that, under the discovery rule, “the possibility that a person who has been in a sexually abusive relationship may not realize that he or she is injured until many years after the sexual act occurred.” J.I. v. United States, No. C06-5674RJB, 2007 WL 983138, at *5 (W.D. Wash. March 26, 2007) (citing Simmons v. United States, 805 F.2d 1363, 1368 (9th Cir. 1986); A.T. v. Everett Sch. Dist., C16-1536JLR, 2017 WL 784673, at *3 (W.D. Wash. Feb. 28, 2017). Nonetheless, “a claim does not wait to accrue until a party knows the precise extent of an injury.” Raddatz v. United States, 750 F.2d 791, 796 (9th Cir. 1984). Therefore, in ascertaining the accrual of Plaintiffs' cause of action, the relevant date is when Plaintiffs first learned of any significant injury resulting from Defendants' allegedly wrongful conduct. Soliman v. Philip Morris Inc., 311 F.3d 966, 972 (9th Cir. 2002) (“The relevant date, however, is not when [plaintiff] knew about these particular injuries, but when he should have known of any significant injury from defendants' wrongful conduct.”) (emphasis in original). While Defendants bear the initial burden ...


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