Alaska Supreme Court rules sex abuse victim can sue OCS

Sam Friedman, [email protected]

May 23, 2017

FAIRBANKS — A Fairbanks child sex abuse victim will have another chance to sue Alaska’s foster care system due to an Alaska Supreme Court opinion published Friday. 

In 2012, a woman who was sexually abused by foster brother Rolin N. Allison Jr., sued the state in a civil case. She claimed the state was negligent in its monitoring of the Allison home and its investigation of abuse. She reported she learned at Allison’s first criminal court hearing in 2011 that the state Office of Children’s Services had known Allison was dangerous and had ordered her foster parents to keep him away from the house.  

In the criminal case, Allison pleaded guilty to the child sexual abuse of multiple foster siblings and one neighbor child. He is serving a 25-year prison term.  

In the civil case, Allison’s victim lost in the first round after Superior Court Judge Bethany Harbison granted the state summary judgment, a court ruling on a factual issue that resolves cases before they go trial. Harbison ruled that the civil lawsuit wasn’t filed in time under a law that sets a two-year maximum time limit for civil liability cases like this. 

The five justices of the Alaska Supreme Court disagreed. The justices argued that instead of granting summary judgment, Harbison should have held an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the two-year statute of limitations clock began in 2011 or at some earlier time. 

“We conclude a genuine factual dispute exists concerning when (the victim) discovered information suggesting that OCS had played a role in allowing her to be abused,” Justice Joel Bolger wrote in the opinion.  

The opinion sends the case back to Harbison. It leaves several other issues to be reconsidered by the lower court. Other outstanding issues include whether a law that protects “discretionary functions” of state agencies shields the state from liability and whether another time limit law called the “statue of repose” applies in this case.  

Contact Outdoors Editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.

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