Justices dismiss sexual abuse suit

David Yates Apr. 27, 2010, 5:43am

In June 2006, a woman identifying herself as M.G.S.L. filed suit against local resident Harold Placette alleging he sexually abused her more than a decade ago.

On April 22 justices seated on the Ninth District Court of Appeals of Texas ruled that M.G.S.L.'s suit exceeded the statue of limitations, reversing a lower court's ruling which allowed the case to continue.

In her petition, M.G.S.L. alleged Placette sexually abused her from 1979 until 1986.

Court papers show that Placette is not a member of M.G.S.L.'s family. When she was 19 years old, M.G.S.L. revealed the alleged abuse to her mother and step-father. The three of them confronted Placette and his wife at their home. He denied the accusations.

"M.G.S.L. was born in 1975, so she was under a legal disability until she became 18 years of age in 1993," states the Ninth Court's opinion, authored by Justice David Gaultney.

"She filed this lawsuit thirteen years later in 2006. The Legislature has enacted a five-year statute of limitations for sexual assault cases.

"Because M.G.S.L. did not file suit within five years, the lawsuit is barred by the statute unless the discovery rule delayed commencement of limitations or another tolling provision applies."

On April 9, 2007, Placette filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing there was no evidence justifying the plaintiff's claims and that her suit exceeded the statute of limitations.

In her response to the motion, M.G.S.L. presented the expert opinion of Dr. Achilles, who said in an affidavit the she was not psychologically capable of understanding that psychological injuries were related to her sexual abuse during childhood until her hospitalization in 2005.

Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, denied the motion, leading Placette to file an appeal on Sept. 4, 2009.

"Because the claims were not filed within five years of plaintiff becoming an adult, the trial court erred in denying the motion for summary judgment," the opinion states. "The trial court's order denying the motion for summary judgment is reversed and judgment is rendered that plaintiff take nothing from defendant."

On appeal, M.G.S.L. argued the Ninth Court lacked jurisdiction over the case.

"The challenge to this court's jurisdiction is groundless," the opinion states.

M.G.S.L. was represented in part by Nederland attorney David Bonham.

Placette was represented in part by attorney Richard Lewis of the Boneau & Lewis law firm.

Trial case No. E177-253
Appeals case No. 09-09-00410-CV

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