Illinois sexual abuse victims often confront confusing statute of limitations issues when bringing claims for chilhood sexual abuse. The Illinois Supreme Court held that under the common law discovery rule governing when a statute of limitations commences, there is no requirement that plaintiff must know the full extent of her injuries before the applicable statute of limitations begins to run. Clay v. Kuhl, 189 Ill. 2d 603, 727 N.E. 2d 217 (2000).
Plaintiff in Clay was born in 1964, sexually abused on hundreds of ocassions in 1972 and 1973, and filed suit against Kuhl and his religious order in 1996. Plaintiff alleged that it was not until 1994 that she first became aware that Kuhl’s misconduct caused her injuries.
The defendants moved to dismiss complaint pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(5), arguing that the time for filing suit expired on March 31, 1984, when she turned 20 years old. Illinois law allows minors to bring suit within two years of reaching majority; 18 years old being majority in Illinois, 735 ILCS 5/13-211. The trial court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss. Plaintiff appealed and Illinois Appellate Court reversed the dismissal, Clay v. Kuhl, 301 Ill. App. 3d 694, 704 N.E. 2d 875. The Illinois Supreme Court granted leave to appeal and reversed the Appellate Court and affirmed the trial court’s dismissal.
In arguments before the Illinois Supreme Court plaintiff contended that application of the discovery rule is necessary because plaintiff did not realize the full extent of her injuries until well after her 20th birthday. The discovery rule states that a party’s cause of action accrues when the party knows or reasonably should know of an injury and that the injury was wrongfully caused. Knox College v. Celotex Corp., 88 Ill. 2d 407, 430 N.E. 2d 976 (1981).