Clergy abuse suit dismissed over time lapse

The alleged victim didn't bring his case to court within a four-year period designated by Iowa law.

The Des Moines Register/June 28, 2005
By Clark Kauffman

An Iowa judge has dismissed a sexual abuse lawsuit brought against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sioux City.

Daniel Nash of Ithaca, N.Y., sued the diocese in 2004 , claiming that he had been sexually abused by the Rev. George McFadden between 1969 and 1972 , when McFadden was pastor at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Jefferson.

Last week, on Nash's 47th birthday, District Judge Duane Hoffmeyer dismissed Nash's lawsuit, saying the statute of limitations had expired.

Under Iowa law, victims of childhood sexual abuse have four years from the time they first recall the abuse to file a lawsuit. The Iowa Supreme Court has said that the time period can be extended in cases where a mental disability has made it impossible for the victim to understand his or her legal rights.

By Nash's own admission, he began recalling the alleged abuse in the spring of 1996 and, over the next eight years , he contacted several attorneys in hopes of having them take his case.

Nash also reported the alleged abuse to two Des Moines Register reporters, which led to a news story in 2002 .

However, Nash didn't file his lawsuit against the diocese and McFadden until April 2004 - eight years after his first recollection of the alleged abuse. His lawyers argued that Nash's mental condition rendered him unable to pursue a case.

"The bare facts of the record before the court contradict this assertion," Hoffmeyer ruled. "Nash has admitted himself that he was aware he may have a claim against McFadden and/or the diocese and that he sought the counsel of at least half a dozen attorneys across the country."

One of Nash's attorneys, R. Scott Rhinehart of Sioux City, said he plans to appeal the judge's decision.

At one point, the diocese was facing 25 lawsuits involving allegations of sexual abuse by McFadden. According to Rhinehart, two of those cases are still pending. All of the others - excluding Nash's - have been settled out of court.

All of the settlements included monetary payments to the alleged victims, but no total has been disclosed.

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