ST. CLOUD, Minn. – A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a former St. John’s Preparatory School student accusing a St. John’s Abbey priest of sexual abuse, saying it was filed too late.
In his decision filed Tuesday, Stearns County District Judge Bernard Boland said Bill Quenroe filed his lawsuit after the six-year statute of limitations expired.
Quenroe accused the Rev. Dunstan Moorse of sexually abusing him in 1981 when Quenroe was a student at St. John’s Prep and Moorse was a teacher and spiritual adviser there.
The judge ruled the lawsuit came too late under Minnesota’s six-year statute of limitations, the period within which legal action must commence.
Quenroe signed a statement in 1992 outlining the alleged abuse and met with then-Abbot Timothy Kelly in 1995 to discuss financial assistance for the injuries Quenroe said he sustained because of the abuse. That shows Quenroe understood back then that the alleged abuse had caused him harm, defense attorneys argued.
Therefore, defense attorneys argued, Quenroe had to file the lawsuit by the end of 1998, and no later than 2001, for it to fall within the statute of limitations.
Quenroe’s attorney, Jeffrey Anderson, had argued he had developed coping mechanisms that made him incapable of realizing the resulting damages from Moorse’s conduct until recently. He also argued the abbey and Moorse fraudulently concealed their conduct, thereby delaying the when the clock started running on the statute of limitations.
Boland rejected those arguments. He said the argument that fraud and concealment stall the statute of limitations hasn’t been applied to sexual abuse cases in Minnesota.
The judge’s order applied only to Quenroe’s claim against the abbey’s insurance company, said the Rev. William Skudlarek, the abbey’s spokesman. Skudlarek said Quenroe’s claims against the abbey and the Benedictine order themselves were covered by a landmark settlement reached with Anderson and his clients last fall, in which St. John’s waived its statute of limitation protection but the insurance company didn’t.
State law generally allows victims of child sexual abuse to sue only in the first six years after they turn 18. Quenroe was 15 when the alleged abuse occurred.
Moorse is one of several priests or monks at St. John’s Abbey who are on restrictions because of their alleged misdeeds. He and the Rev. Allen Tarlton, who is also on restrictions, were named in the lawsuit filed last summer by Quenroe and a victim identified as John Doe 43 against the priests, the abbey and the order.
Anderson told the St. Cloud Times on Wednesday that he planned to challenge the dismissal with the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
Information from: St. Cloud Times