Lawsuit, stemming from alleged 1970s incidents, seeks $6.3 million and to change statute of limitations
A lawsuit against the Lake Oswego School District alleges three boys were sexually abused at Bryant Elementary School in the early 1970s.
The statute of limitations in Oregon for sexual abuse cases involving public employees is two years. The suit seeks to change that law, possibly by taking the case to the State Supreme Court.
Portland attorney Kelly Clark, who represents the men bringing the case, said his clients are “in this for the long haul.”
Clark said that the men realize that to win they will have to change the statute of limitations.
“This loophole ought to be fixed, whether it’s fixed by the Supreme Court or by the Legislature,” Clark said.
Clark said he feels he has a good case for declaring the two-year statute of limitations unconstitutional. The school district’s attorney, Peter Mersereau of Portland, said the district is investigating the case.
“The district intends to defend itself,” Mersereau said.
He said he believes the constitutionality of the two-year statute of limitations will be upheld.
In the case, the three men are asking for punitive damages of $6.3 million.
Lake Oswego Superintendent Bill Korach said the suit “came out of the blue.”
The suit alleges that Judd W. Johnson of Lake Oswego, 66, fondled the genitals of one of the boys in class in front of other students in 1972 or 1973. Johnson allegedly fondled the genitals and buttocks of two other boys in front of a classroom in 1973 or 1974. The fondling was allegedly done while the boys had their clothes on.
Johnson “gained their families’ trust and confidence as a teacher and authority figure…,” the suit claims.
Each is asking for $2 million in non-economic damages related to physical and emotional trauma and $100,000 for counseling, psychiatric and psychological medical treatment.
In two of the cases, the lawsuit states that the alleged victims realized the connections between the alleged molestations and physical, mental and emotional injuries in 2007.
The third alleged victim said he discovered the connection in November 2006.
Kelly said the two-year statute of limitations is unfair because many victims aren’t aware of the damage or won’t report it within two years of the abuse.
“The impact of child sex abuse produces a mental block, where they’re not able to appreciate the injuries,” he said. “They knew they were abused, but can’t get past the guilt or shame. There is a mental block.”
The suit said the alleged victims were “incapable of bringing a claim within two years of the abuse they suffered at the hands of Johnson.”