TOPEKA (KSNT) – The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City could be held responsible for the sexual abuse a child endured in Shawnee County, according to the Kansas Supreme Court.

A lawsuit seeking damages from a priest and the archdiocese that employed the priest from 1980 to 1984 went before the judges, who remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. A man, only known as John Doe H.B. from Shawnee County, filed the lawsuit seeking damages from abuse that happened when he was nine to 12 years old, from 1980 to 1984. The man said he repressed the memories of his abuse until media reports about abuse started showing up in the news in 2015.

Before the parties went to trial, defendants the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City and St. Matthew Parish in Topeka filed motions saying the claims were time-barred by an eight-year deadline. The district court denied the motions.

Much of the lawyer’s arguments have focused on timetables and not on the allegations of abuse itself. The law K.S.A. 60-515(a) requires a plaintiff to pursue a lawsuit no more than eight years after the events that caused harm. There is an exception, however, that allows a victim of sexual abuse to file a lawsuit up to three years after the victim turns 18 years old, or three years after the victim discovers injuries caused by childhood sexual abuse.

During a court deposition, H.B. stated the abuse took place when he was in fourth grade. The archdiocese records indicated that the priest in question, known to the court only as M.J., had been assigned to multiple locations throughout Kansas, but was at St. Matthew’s in Topeka from the summer of 1981 to the summer of 1983 before moving on to St. Aloysius in Meriden, Holy Spirit in Overland Park, and St. Peter’s in Kansas City, Kansas.

Court records indicate that M.J. said he could not remember details of his positions or time at the archdiocese. The archdiocese argued in front of the Kansas Supreme Court that the child abuse exception applies only to individuals, not institutions. The court rejected that argument, saying the law focuses on harm resulting from abuse, not on “perpetrator liability.”

The majority opinion of the court said the law was ambiguous but believed the archdiocese could be held liable for aiding and abetting. With the case remanded to the district court, the majority wrote in an opinion that the Kansas statute is in play in this appeal.