In injury claims, time is the enemy of justice, in more ways than one

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “What can you sue for in a personal injury case?”


Time cures all ills, as the saying goes. For at least one North Carolina sex abuse victim, time is the enemy of justice.

Priests walking Charlotte Injury Lawyer Mecklenburg County North Carolina Wrongful Death AttorneyOn July 1, a Stanly County Superior Court Judge dismissed a sex abuse charge against the Rev. Joseph Kelleher. The judge ruled that Kelleher, who is 86 and lives in a retirement home in High Point, is not mentally competent to stand trial.

The sexual abuse allegation was levelled against Kelleher in 2010 by a man who said he was abused by Kelleher in 1977, when the man was 14-years-old. At that time, Kelleher worked at Our Lady of the Annunciation Catholic Church in Albemarle.

Lawyers for the victim called the case “one of the oldest, if not oldest” criminal case pending in Stanly County, and questioned why it was delayed for some four years before being dismissed.

Delays of a different kind resulted in dismissal of two civil lawsuits brought in Mecklenburg County against the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte. Those lawsuits were premised on decades-old sex abuse of children by Kelleher and another priest. Lawyers for the diocese argued successfully that plaintiffs in those cases missed the deadline to file their lawsuits.

Limits are imposed as to how much time can pass before an injured person brings suit in nearly every kind of personal injury claim. While the deadlines are strict, the concept of “latent memory” – a hallmark of sexual abuse cases – is recognized under North Carolina law. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-15(c) provides that the statute of limitations doesn’t begin to run on a claim until harm or damage becomes apparent or reasonably should have been apparent to a victim.

In a famous case, Leonard v. England, a woman who was 39 at the time she filed a lawsuit claimed that 28 years earlier she had been sexually, physically and emotionally abused. She produced evidence that repression of her memories and Post-Traumatic-Stress Syndrome rendered her “incompetent” until she was diagnosed by a medical professional. The three-year statute of limitation in the woman’s claim only began to run when the medical diagnosis was made, so she was permitted to sue her abuser for acts that had occurred nearly three decades earlier.

Attempts to sue for damages in repressed-memory cases have had varying degrees of success in North Carolina courts. Potential claimants should educate themselves on the applicable statutes of limitation in order to ensure their time for bringing suit has not expired.

If you believe that you or someone you know has been injured and may have a personal injury claim, contact me today to set up an appointment. We can help you determine the nature of your claim, whether you have potential causes of action, and whether any applicable limitations periods are involved.

Call me today for an appointment, and we can talk about your options.

Arnold & Smith, PLLC is a Charlotte based criminal defense, traffic violation defense and civil litigation law firm servicing Charlotte and the surrounding area. If you or someone you know need legal assistance, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828   or find additional resources here.



About the Author

ARNOLD & SMITH LAWMatthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.






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