(CN) – A former student’s claim that an older male teacher seduced her is not time barred, a California appeals court ruled, because the student didn’t realize that she’d been victimized until undergoing psychotherapy in 2007.
The lower court had dismissed the case against Arcadia School District as untimely, but Justice Kline of the 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled that the delayed discovery doctrine applied.
Plaintiff K.J. testified that in 2003, when she was 15, she was seduced by Philip Sutliff, a teacher in his 30s. They started having a sexual relationship when she turned 16, often in Sutliff’s classroom between fifth and sixth period. The classroom has a couch and blinds on the windows.
The relationship continued for more than two years, until K.J. turned 18 and graduated. Sutliff broke off the relationship after his wife discovered it. K.J. told her mother, who reported Sutliff to the police. He was convicted and sent to jail for 12 years.
K.J. sued the school because she had believed that she was in love with Sutliff and did not think he had done anything wrong.
Kline ruled that K.J.’s trial court case was improperly dismissed because K.J. sued within the six months of the time that she discovered the negligence of school district in allowing Sutliff’s conduct toward her to take place.
“It was not until July 2007, as a result of psychotherapy, that K.J. realized that she had been victimized by Sutliff,” Kline wrote. “K.J.’s tort claim, presented to the district in September 2007, is deemed timely for pleading purposes.”