Appeal from District Court, Hennepin County; District Court File No. 91-004317. Hon. Daniel H. Mabley, Judge.
Considered and decided by Parker, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Foley, Judge.*
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Foley
1. When determining whether a victim "had reason to know" of sexual abuse for statute of limitation purposes, the court applies the objective, reasonable person standard, not a subjective test based upon the mental and emotional state of the victim. Minn. Stat. § 541.073, subd. 2(a) (1992).
2. A case based upon negligence, and its derivative loss of consortium claim, is barred by the statute of limitations when commenced more than six years after the victim had reason to know of the abuse. Minn. Stat. § 541.073, subd. 2(a) (1992).
Appellant ABC brought this action in 1991 alleging that respondent Father Michael Kolar had sexually abused her for a period of 11 years. ABC's husband, appellant XYZ, brought an action alleging loss of consortium. In this appeal from summary judgment, appellants contend that the trial court erroneously interpreted the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases when it dismissed her case based upon its determination that ABC "had reason to know" prior to 1985 that she had been a victim of sexual abuse by Father Kolar. The trial court applied the proper standard in this case. The evidence overwhelmingly establishes that ABC had reason to know prior to 1985 that she had been abused. We affirm.
Appellant ABC met Father Michael Kolar when she was a high school student attending a retreat at the St. Paul Catholic Youth Center (CYC). At that time in 1972, ABC was 15 years old, and Father Kolar, the director of the CYC, was 29. ABC was a devout Roman Catholic who came to know, admire, respect, and trust Father Kolar as a priest and religious counselor. After that first retreat in 1972, Father Kolar and ABC began establishing a special friendship as ABC returned to the CYC regularly for prayer sessions and counseling with Father Kolar about any problems she was having.
Over the next three years, ABC said Father Kolar slowly began wearing down the physical boundaries between them, and began initiating improper physical contact. This contact began as a kiss on the lips when she was 15 and then progressed to back rubs over ABC's clothing and under her clothing. On occasion, ABC stayed overnight at the CYC, during which time Father Kolar loaned her his pajamas and greeted her with good morning kisses. Father Kolar also made his private quarters and his shower available to ABC on numerous occasions. Shortly before ABC's 18th birthday, she and Father Kolar engaged in sexual intercourse for the first time. By this time, ABC was completely in love with Father Kolar and Father Kolar expressed his love for her. Thus, when Father Kolar told ABC that their relationship must be kept secret, she complied.
As their relationship progressed, Father Kolar expressed to ABC his internal conflict over choosing between his love for her and his love for the church. Throughout their relationship, ABC knew that Father Kolar had taken a vow of celibacy and that his conduct with her was inappropriate. As Father Kolar began traveling as a part of his ministry in the late 1970s and early 1980s, ABC accompanied him overnight on many of these trips around the United States. Father Kolar estimated that they took at least two trips per year. Father Kolar used these times away as opportunities for sexual encounters with ABC.
In 1982, ABC discovered that she was pregnant by Father Kolar. In an attempt to protect himself and ABC, Father Kolar set up a scheme whereby ABC told her family that she was going to Bolivia on missionary work. In fact, Father Kolar had arranged for ABC to go to Chicago to bear the child and give it up for adoption. En route to Chicago with Father Kolar, ABC suffered a miscarriage. After the miscarriage, ABC suffered serious feelings of confusion and loss.
Father Kolar went on sabbatical in 1983. Upon his return in October 1983, he told ABC that he finally had made a choice to continue in his ministry with the church and to terminate his relationship with her.
As early as 1977, ABC began consulting with friends and clergy about the relationship she was having with Father Kolar. Both Father Gregory Skrypek and Father Timothy Powers testified in their depositions that their conversations with ABC focused on the turmoil ABC said she felt about being in love with a priest. To both of these men, ABC described her situation as a loving relationship with Father Kolar; neither Father Skrypek nor Father Powers ever got the impression from ABC that the relationship was abusive. Furthermore, ABC told neither of them that she had begun her relationship with Father Kolar when she was only 15. In all of her communication with these two priests, ABC expressed only her concern and mixed emotions about pursuing a relationship with a man who was torn between his love for her, as he had expressed it, and his love for the church.
In 1983, following the miscarriage and breakup of the relationship, ABC began counseling with Virgil Burns, a social worker who also had counseled Father Kolar. In his affidavit to the court, Burns said that he found ABC to be depressed as a result of her pregnancy, miscarriage, and broken relationship. According to Burns, ABC never considered her relationship with Father Kolar to be abusive, nor did he suggest to her that it had been.
ABC met XYZ in the summer of 1983. When they began dating seriously, ABC divulged the entire story of her relationship with Father Kolar to XYZ. She told him in detail of their relationship, including her pregnancy, miscarriage, and emotional turmoil because of those experiences. XYZ had attended St. Paul Seminary, was an active Catholic, and knew and respected Father Kolar. XYZ confronted Father Kolar about his relationship with ABC. Despite this background, ABC and XYZ asked Father Kolar to marry them in May 1984.
In 1989, ABC and XYZ learned that Father Kolar had been accused of taking advantage of other vulnerable young women. In March 1990, they contacted their friends, respondent James Kolar, who is Father Kolar's brother and the associate director of the CYC, and his wife, Ann. James Kolar told ABC that one relationship had occurred before ABC's involvement with Father Kolar, and the other alleged relationship had occurred after ABC's relationship with Father Kolar had ended.
In July 1990, ABC met with another victim, JB; they had the opportunity to compare and contrast their experiences in their relationships with Father Kolar. ABC learned that Father Kolar had been in a relationship with both JB and ABC at the same time. JB testified in her deposition:
When she was involved with him, when I was involved with him, how close everything was. She got pregnant. He came to my graduation open house. She miscarried in August, two weeks later he takes me out to brunch before I leave for my freshman year in college.
Since July 1990, ABC has sought counseling through Dr. Sheryl Harrison and Dr. Bruce McBeath. XYZ testified to ABC's radical personality changes since July 1990. He testified that, after ABC learned of Father Kolar's other exploits, she became depressed, went through a crisis of faith, and viewed making love with her husband as something "dirty."
In his deposition, Father Kolar testified that after six months and twenty days of treatment, he learned that he had problems dealing with vulnerable women and recognized that he was, in fact, a sexual abuser. He admitted that he developed bonds of love, trust, and admiration with certain female parishioners, only to manipulate and/or sexually abuse them later. When asked, "Do you acknowledge at this point that all of these relationships, whether prolonged or single instances, do constitute sexual abuse?" Father Kolar responded, "Yes."
Appellants brought this action against Father Kolar, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the CYC, and James Kolar. This action sounds in negligence; ABC makes no claim of fraud. Upon cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court dismissed appellants' complaint. Upon motion to reconsider, appellants submitted to the district court four supplemental letters in response to the district court's order for summary judgment. *fn1 The trial court denied the motion and ordered judgment for respondents.
Did ABC have "reason to know," prior to 1985, that Father Kolar had sexually abused her ...