Clarke v. Abate

Plaintiff, a high school female athlete, became a patient of defendant who was an orthopedic surgeon and a professor at the University of Vermont medical school, in September 2000, a few months after her sixteenth birthday. Plaintiff had suffered a hip injury while training for soccer season, and her pediatrician referred her to defendant, whose office notes indicated that she had groin pain near the pubic area. After several visits, defendant told plaintiff that her parents did not need to accompany her to appointments, which sometimes took place on a weekly basis, sometimes after hours. On at least three occasions during the course of his treatment of plaintiff, including one time before her first surgery and another time before her second surgery, defendant inserted his ungloved fingers into plaintiff's vagina. No one other than defendant and plaintiff was present on these occasions. Defendant insisted these penetrations were legitimate medical internal examinations conducted for diagnostic purposes. Plaintiff sued defendant for sexual assault and battery and intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress. She appealed the superior court's grant of summary judgment to defendant based on a six-year statute of limitations applicable to childhood sexual abuse. The court determined that the limitations period had run as a matter of law before plaintiff filed her lawsuit relied primarily on her statements to police and her deposition testimony concerning her awareness of defendant's wrongful conduct at the time of the alleged assaults. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the court erred by determining the limitations accrual date as a matter of law rather than allowing the jury to weigh inferences from the factual record regarding plaintiff's state of mind and knowledge during the relevant period of time. View "Clarke v. Abate" on Justia Law