The first civil lawsuit to be filed under a new Minnesota law eliminating the statute of limitations for children who have been sexually abused is expected to be announced this afternoon.
The suit will be filed on behalf of a 51-year-old unidentified Twin Cities man, and will name the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, the Diocese of Winona and former priest Thomas Adamson as defendants. Jeff Anderson, of Anderson and Associates, is representing the plaintiff.
Adamson, 78, was ordained as a priest for the Diocese of Winona in 1958. Allegations of his sexual involvement with young boys date from the early 1960s. In 1975, he was transferred to the Archdiocese of St. Paul after a number of abuse complaints had been brought to the attention of church officials in the Winona diocese. He continued in the active priesthood until 1984.
While Adamson never faced criminal abuse charges — the statute of limitations had expired — he was named in three civil suits settled out of court, and a fourth suit brought against the Diocese of Winona and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was decided in favor of the complainant.
It wasn’t known Tuesday how much the lawsuit will seek in damages, or what time period it will focus on. Anderson and others are expected to announce more details of the suit today at a press conference in St. Paul.
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The Minnesota Child Victims Act was passed by the Legislature and signed into law last week. The new law, passed unanimously by the Minnesota Senate and by a vote of 115 to 7 in the House and signed by Gov. Mark Dayton, removes the civil statute of limitations for child victims of sexual abuse. Previously, the state required victims to file suit against an alleged abuser within six years of becoming a legal adult — by age 24.
Advocates for abuse victims argued that often a victim will not come forward — or even recognize or acknowledge what happened to them — for years or decades after the abuse occurred and long after they have reached the age of 24.
Numerous child advocacy groups, including Winona’s National Child Protection Training Center and the National Center for Victims of Crime, backed the bill.
In enacting the law, Minnesota became the fifth state to remove time limits on filing civil action against child sexual abusers. The law is retroactive, and allows for those who are already past the age of 24 to file for damages.
The law does not affect existing criminal statutes regarding child abuse.