One Star v. Sisters of St. Francis, Denver, Colorado – Case Brief Summary (South Dakota)

In One Star v. Sisters of St. Francis, Denver, Colorado, 2008 SD 55, 752 N.W.2d 668, 672 (S.D. 2008), the plaintiffs--siblings alleged that they were sexually abused by their secondary school's clergymen between 1960 to 1971. In 1995, the plaintiff--sister ("sister") discussed her account with another sexually abused victim, and the plaintiff--brother ("brother") drafted a letter regarding the alleged sexual abuse to a newspaper in May 2001. Id. at 672.

in April 2003, the brother was a member of a class action against the United States, which was filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Id. at 673.

The claim "was filed on behalf of Native American children who were allegedly abused at Roman Catholic boarding schools." Id. in June 2004, the plaintiffs filed a complaint against the defendants, who were the secondary school and related entities. In November 2004, the class action was dismissed for procedural defects. Id.

Following discovery, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that the plaintiffs' action was barred by the statute of limitations. Id. The circuit court denied the motion, and the defendants appealed. Id. at 673-74.

On appeal, the plaintiffs averred that their claims did not accrue until 2002 because during that time, they could appreciate the effect that the sexual abuse had on their lifestyles, and thus, the statute of limitations did not expire. Id. at 674. Moreover, the plaintiffs maintained that the class action tolled the statute of limitations. Id. at 680.

The South Dakota Supreme Court examined what constituted "accrual," id. at 675, and determined that the sister and brother possessed notice of the effect by 1995 and 2001, respectively. Id. at 677-78. Consequently, because they filed their action in November 2004, their claims were barred. Id. at 680.

Furthermore, the South Dakota Supreme Court indicated that class action tolling (1) offered notice to the defendants of a prospective action and (2) advanced judicial efficiency. Id.

First, the defendants were not named parties in the class action, so there was no notice of the plaintiffs' claims. Id. Furthermore, "the plaintiffs failed to cite any authority supporting class action tolling in cases involving different defendants, different claims, in different jurisdictions." Id. at 681.

As a result, the South Dakota Supreme Court did not apply cross-jurisdictional tolling, and reversed the circuit court's ruling regarding the defendants' motion for summary judgment. Id. at 683.