PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – The Oregon Supreme Court said a former member of the Boy Scouts of America’s Explorer Scout program could pursue his negligence claim against the city of The Dalles after he was sexually abused by the officer running the program, because the statute of limitations may hinge on when the victim realized the government was involved instead of when the actual abuse occurred.
The plaintiff was 16 and in foster care when he first met Sgt. James Tannehill at a gym in 1996. Tannehill commented on the plaintiff’s physique and encouraged him to join the Explorers, a program that introduces teens to law enforcement. Once the plaintiff joined, Tannehill groomed the plaintiff by plying him with alcohol, making sexual comments and molesting him. The plaintiff claims that when he asked two other officers about Tannehill’s practice of buying alcohol for minors and his apparent interest in boys, “one just laughed, (and) the other told him he didn’t want to talk about it,” the ruling states. The plaintiff says he tried to withdraw from the situation, but Tannehill coerced him to stay in contact with threats and intimidation.
Six years later, the plaintiff’s decision to tell police about the abuse led to a grand-jury investigation of Tannehill. It was at those proceedings that plaintiff claims to have realized that the police force may have covered up widespread abuse.
He filed suit against the city, despite having missed the traditional two-year statute of limitations.
The state high court ruled that a jury might find that the clock reset when the plaintiff first learned of the city’s involvement in what had otherwise been considered an isolated incident.