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Tort/Negligence — Child Sexual Abuse – SAFE Child Act – Claim Revival – Res Judicata

The Safe Child Act of 2019 revived claims of child sexual abuse that would have otherwise been time-barred, like plaintiff’s. However, since plaintiff had already filed his claims in 2011 and since they were summarily dismissed, res judicata bars plaintiff’s 2020 complaint, which arises out of the same conduct as alleged in his 2011 complaint.

We affirm the trial court’s grant of defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Plaintiff alleges that, in the 1970’s, he was sexually abused by a now-deceased priest.

The SAFE Child Act (S.B. 199), § 4.2(b) states, “Effective from January 1, 2020, until December 31, 2021, this section revives any civil action for child sexual abuse otherwise time-barred under [G.S. §] 1-52 as it existed immediately before the enactment of this act.” S.B.199, § 4.2(b) (the Revival Provision). Based on the plain language of the Revival Provision, S.B. 199 revives only civil actions for child sexual abuse otherwise time-barred and does not revive civil actions for child sexual abuse barred by disposition of a previous action. Without specific language from the Legislature to the contrary, this court must observe the principles of the doctrine of res judicata as they apply to this case.

There was a final judgment in plaintiff’s 2011 action, and the parties were the same as those in this 2020 action. Although plaintiff’s claims in the 2011 complaint and the 2020 complaint were not identical, all claims were premised on the same core factual allegations. Because it is clear any new claims brought in the 2020 complaint could have been adjudicated in a prior action, having arisen from the same factual assertions, we hold res judicata applies to all claims brought in the 2020 complaint.

Plaintiff’s claims, having been summarily dismissed, the final order of Mecklenburg County Superior Court precludes their revival in the absence of some other procedural tool, such as a grant from the trial court on a motion to set aside judgment pursuant to N.C. R. Civ. P. Rule 60(b)(6), or a specific grant of revival from the Legislature. While such an outcome may not have been the intent of the Legislature in drafting the Revival Provision, this court is bound by the plain language of S.B. 199.

Affirmed.

Doe v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-107-22, 9 pp.) (Jeffery Carpenter, J.) Appealed from Mecklenburg County Superior Court (Carla Archie, J.) Sam McGee for plaintiff; Joshua Davey for defendant. 2022-NCCOA-287

 


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