Sliney v. Previte

473 Mass. 283 (2015)

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Sliney v. Previte

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
473 Mass. 283 (2015)

  • Written by Tammy Boggs, JD

Facts

As alleged in a 2012 complaint, Rosanne Sliney (plaintiff) was sexually abused by her uncle, Domenic Previte (defendant) from the time Sliney was five years old in 1968 until she was 14 years old in 1977. Beginning in 1988, Sliney began to recall some of the abuse. Sliney required numerous hospitalizations and psychiatric treatment. Previte wrote a letter of apology to Sliney. In 1991, under family pressure, Sliney was coerced into signing a document that purported to release Previte from all claims. Sliney continued to require mental-health treatment. In 2011, Sliney began to recall that Previte also forced Sliney to engage in sexual acts with other strangers (other sexual acts). In January 2012, Sliney sued Previte for sexual abuse. The applicable statute of limitations (§ 4C) was three years. Previte filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that Sliney’s claims were untimely and foreclosed by the release she had signed. Sliney asserted in response that she could not have reasonably discovered the claims based on other sexual acts until 2011. The trial court ruled in Previte’s favor on the timeliness issue. In 2013, the appellate court affirmed. In 2014, Previte filed a petition for rehearing in the intermediate appellate court and applications for review with the Massachusetts Supreme Court. In June 2014, the state legislature passed an act that extended the statute of limitations for claims like Sliney’s (the act), and the act contained a retroactivity provision. Sliney contended that the new statute of limitations (amended § 4C) should be applied to her case. The Massachusetts Supreme Court granted Sliney’s applications for review. Previte argued that amended § 4C should not be applied and was unconstitutional.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Botsford, J.)

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