DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The IowaSupreme Court on Friday ordered a district court judge to dismiss a lawsuit against theNew London school district filed by a woman alleging she was molested by a female coach years ago.
In the 4-3 decision the court said the woman’s case must be dismissed because she had not filed the lawsuit within the time allowed by state law.
The woman is identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit. She is represented by Des Moines attorney Roxanne Conlin, who argued that in damage lawsuits against school districts the common law discovery rule should apply. That rule gives victims up to two years from the time they discover damage to sue.
The court declined to overturn previous court rulings that have held that lawsuits against local governments must be filed within two years of when damage occurs.
The woman, who graduated from high school in 2004, said she didn’t know the sexual relationship with her coach was the cause of emotional problems until after she saw a psychologist in 2011. She filed suit in 2012.
The woman, now in her 20s, says she was 14 when Gina Sisk, her teacher and track coach first began to make sexual advances which led to sex acts continuing until she graduated.
Conlin also argued the woman was 14 when the incidents began which qualifies her for an extended statute of limitations in Iowa law for child sex abuse victims. It allows lawsuits to be brought within four years from the time the victim discovers an injury.
The court also rejected that argument saying it has long upheld previous rulings that define child in sex abuse cases as as a person under the age of 14.
He said the previous courts have erroneously upheld the younger-than-14 definition of a child in sex abuse cases while other sections of Iowa law define a child as anyone under 18.
He said the court shouldn’t stand on previous decisions simply “to maintain a clearly erroneous statutory interpretation just because we used that interpretation in the past.”
Conlin did not immediately respond to a message. Steven Ort, the attorney representing the school district, said the district was pleased with the court’s decision.
Conlin also has filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of the woman in federal court. Trial has been set for January in Davenport.
Sisk, who has denied the sexual relationship, was dropped from the state and federal lawsuits in April after an undisclosed settlement was reached with the woman.
“It’s been a long difficult process for her and she’s pleased to see the Supreme Court make the decision that it did,” Sisk’s attorney, Tammy Gentry said.