(CN) – A woman who ran away from home at 14 and moved in with an adult male security guard from her middle school waited too long to sue for civil rights violations, the 3rd Circuit ruled.
In 1994, Tanya Nichole Kach developed a crush on Thomas Hose, a security guard at Cornell Middle School in McKeesport, Pa. The two became intimate, and Kach, then 14, ran away from home to live with him, believing he could offer her a better life.
For 10 years, Kach lived in the house that Hose shared with his son and parents, who were allegedly unaware of Kach’s presence for nine years, because she stayed in Hose’s bedroom only.
Kach would leave the house occasionally, but would always return undetected.
When she was 24, Kach befriended a local convenient store owner and revealed her true identity to him. The man told authorities, and Kach was removed from Hose’s home.
Hose was later convicted on criminal charges.
Kach filed suit against Hose, his parents, law enforcement officials, the middle school and school personnel, including the superintendent and a guidance counselor.
The district court dismissed all of her claims as time-barred, and the Philadelphia-based appeals court affirmed.
Kach argued that she couldn’t sue earlier, because she was too young and naïve to recognize the injury at the time.
But the appeals court held that, although Kach was developmentally disadvantaged, she was capable of recognizing her injury before the age of 24.
“Even Kach’s troubled state before she began living with Hose and her subsequent prolonged subservience to him is far cry from the total mental disability of plaintiffs in other accrual-delay cases,” Judge D. Michael Fisher wrote.
Fisher acknowledged that Kach has “suffered an indescribable ordeal that essentially stripped her of her adolescence and young adulthood,” but said she should have been aware of the injury after her eighteenth birthday.
“Her unique circumstances notwithstanding, we are compelled to conclude that Kach forewent her right to relief in federal court by waiting too long to assert her rights,” Fisher wrote.