Scarborough, et al. v. Altstatt
August 5, 2020
The Maryland Court of Special Appeals rejected a challenge to a twenty-year-old case in which the Court of Appeals found that the statute of limitations is not tolled for victims of childhood sexual abuse claiming dissociative amnesia.
On December 4, 2014, Robin Scarborough, Alice Altstatt and Carol Alstatt, filed complaints alleging childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by their father occurring between 1964 and 1984. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss on the basis of the statute of limitations. Plaintiffs argued that they suffered from dissociative amnesia caused by the sexual abuse, which they allege caused memory impairment that should toll the statute of limitations until they began to remember the abuse in early 2014. The Circuit Court for Montgomery County granted Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss.
Plaintiffs argued that under the discovery rule, their claims did not begin to accrue until they began to remember the sexual abuse in 2014. Plaintiffs argued that the Court should reconsider the decision of Doe v. Maskell, in which the Court of Appeals rejected memory “repression” as a basis for tolling the statute of limitations. Plaintiffs argued that medical advances support the validity of memory repression and warrant reconsideration of the Maskell decision. The Court of Special Appeals rejected Plaintiffs’ argument and explained that any modification of the statute of limitations is a decision for the General Assembly. The General Assembly considered changes to the statute of limitations applicable to victims of child sexual abuse and extended the statute of limitations to seven years beyond the age of majority. The Court reasoned that because the General Assembly had not found that memory “repression” tolled the statute of limitations, the Court was not at liberty to do so. Therefore, the Court found that claims of dissociative amnesia or memory repression do not toll the statute of limitations under the current state of the law.