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Doe v. Carlson

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District

February 7, 2017

JANE DOE, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CHERIE CARLSON, Defendant-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 13 L 13466 Honorable John P. Callahan, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE MASON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Hyman and Justice Neville concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          MASON, JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Plaintiff Jane Doe appeals an order dismissing her November 2013 complaint alleging negligence, civil battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress against defendant, Cherie Carlson, on the basis that the statute of limitations had expired. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 This case arises from Cherie Carlson's alleged sexual abuse of Jane Doe, beginning when Doe was 16 years old. In her deposition, Doe, who was born in September 1979, testified that she belonged to the North Side Gospel Church and, through the church, became a member of the Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed (AWANA) club at the age of five. Beginning at the age of 11 or 12, Doe attended the AWANA overnight camps in Wisconsin for approximately 2 weeks every summer.

         ¶ 4 Carlson was a leader at the church in charge of the high school AWANA youth group. Doe met Carlson when Doe was 12 or 13, but the two did not have regular contact until Doe joined the high school youth group when she was 14 years old. At that time, Doe saw Carlson at youth group meetings once a week, at church on Sundays, and for sporadic extracurricular activities.

         ¶ 5 In the summer of 1996, when Doe was 16, she attended the AWANA overnight camp, where she was one of several youth group leaders for the younger members, and Carlson was in charge of the leaders. Carlson told Doe during a series of conversations that she was interested in pursuing a "discipleship" or mentor-mentee relationship with Doe. Doe understood this to mean that Carlson wanted to read the Bible together and act as her teacher and spiritual advisor. Doe was aware that Carlson previously had a mentor-mentee relationship with another youth group leader. Doe had seen the other leader in bed with Carlson at camp in the summer of 1993 or 1994, when Doe was 12 or 13. After Doe agreed to the discipleship, Carlson began lying in bed with Doe, cuddling her, and giving her back rubs.

         ¶ 6 When Doe returned from camp in August 1996, Carlson invited her to Carlson's parent's house to watch a movie, at which time Carlson fondled her. Doe cried and pulled away, and Carlson, also crying, apologized. Doe testified that she felt ashamed, surprised, and scared because she knew the touching was wrong. Although Carlson assured Doe it would not happen again, approximately one month later, in Carlson's car, Carlson moved her hand up Doe's leg and kissed Doe. Again, Doe cried and Carlson apologized. From September to December 1996, the abuse occurred on at least 10 occasions. In early 1997, Doe testified that Carlson sexually penetrated her in Carlson's parent's house, which Doe knew was "inappropriate." Over the next several years, Carlson continued to abuse Doe, often taking her to hotels when Carlson's parents were home.

         ¶ 7 Doe testified that the sexual abuse became less frequent when she began college and stopped altogether in 1999 when Doe was 20, because Doe "couldn't take it anymore" and felt Carlson was no longer interested in being her spiritual advisor, but was using her for sex. At no point did Doe feel that her relationship with Carlson was consensual.

         ¶ 8 Doe did not report Carlson's behavior while it was occurring because she was aware that when Wren made allegations against Carlson, Wren and her family left the church, while Carlson remained. In addition, Carlson threatened to kill herself if Doe told anyone about the abuse.

         ¶ 9 In 1999, after the abuse had stopped, Doe received a phone call from a woman named Dianna, who asked Doe if Carlson ever tried to touch her. Doe did not answer the question directly, but later called Dianna's cousin, Claire, and told her about Carlson's abuse towards her because she was concerned about Dianna. Specifically, Doe told Claire that Carlson was "sexually inappropriate" with her in the hopes that Claire would "warn" her cousin. At around this same time, Doe began experiencing chronic anxiety, sadness, and nightmares. However, Doe testified that she did not connect these feelings to Carlson's abuse until more than a decade later, when in 2012 she told her husband what she had suffered and began therapy. Her therapist diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder arising out of the abuse.

         ¶ 10 Doe filed suit against Carlson, among others, on November 15, 2013. Carlson moved to dismiss the suit on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired in 2001, two years after Doe knew or should have known both that the abuse occurred and that her injury was caused by the abuse. See 735 ...


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