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Issues of fact in molestation suit against father

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of a motion of summary judgment by a father accused of molesting two of his adopted sons when they were children. The appellate court found a genuine issue of material fact as to whether his wife's conduct upon learning about the molestations amounted to collusion with the father in concealing the molestation.

In Frederick William LaCava v. Daniel LaCava and Geoffrey LaCava, No. 49A04-0808-CV-451, Frederick LaCava argued claims by Daniel and Geoffrey LaCava were barred by the statute of limitations and that in the absence of expert opinion regarding the son's claims of repressed memory, their complaint can't withstand summary judgment.

Daniel and Geoffrey claimed Frederick molested them as boys until the late 1980s and they repressed memories of it until 2005 when they found child pornography stored on Frederick's computer. They filed suit in 2005 against their father, after the two-year statute of limitations for them to have filed once they became adults expired.

As children, they told their mother Elizabeth about the abuse and she asked Frederick to leave, and they later divorced. She never reported the abuse to the authorities and allowed them to continue to see their father unsupervised. She even told them to keep quiet about the molestations when it came out Frederick molested two foster children in their home.

In her affidavit, Elizabeth claimed Daniel and Geoffrey spoke about their molestations before 2005. Their brother Andrew said in his affidavit that Geoffrey confronted their father in 1999 about the abuse in front of Andrew.

Daniel died before the motion for summary judgment was filed.

Although the statue of limitations had passed for Geoffrey and Daniel to file their suit based on their ages, the doctrine of fraudulent concealment can estop a parental defendant from asserting the statute of limitations when he has, by deception or violation of duty, concealed from the plaintiff material facts preventing the plaintiff from discovering the potential cause of action, wrote Judge Margret Robb. Frederick claimed the doctrine doesn't apply because there's no dispute Elizabeth knew about the molestations in 1989 and her knowledge should be imputed to Daniel and Geoffrey.

The appellate court found there to be a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Elizabeth's conduct when she learned about her son's molestations amounted to collusion with her husband in concealing the molestation from Daniel and Geoffrey, wrote the judge.

There is also an issue of fact as to whether Daniel and Geoffrey remembered the molestations before 2005 based on conversations they had with others.

The appellate court also ruled that based on Doe v. Shutls-Lewis Child and Family Services, Inc., 718 N.E.2d 738, 745, (Ind. 1999), Daniel and Geoffrey will need expert testimony to ultimately prevail on their claims. The trial court denied their request for a third extension of time in order to have Geoffrey evaluated by a psychiatrist and get an expert opinion on their repressed memories claims. However, the Court of Appeals held that testimony isn't required at this stage of the case. Judge Robb wrote in a footnote that Daniel didn't meet with an expert before his death, so although his claim should withstand summary judgment, it would be appropriate to voluntarily dismiss him from this litigation.

The Court of Appeals remanded for further proceedings.

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