Supreme Court keeps alive lawsuit filed against DCYF

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By Mark Hayward New Hampshire Union Leader

The Supreme Court on Wednesday kept alive a civil suit against the state Division for Children, Youth and Families filed by a woman who claims she was abused in their care.

DCYF appealed the case to the Supreme Court last year, challenging a Merrimack County Superior Court judge’s ruling that a strict three-year statute of limitations did not apply in the case.

The Supreme Court agreed and on Wednesday ruled that the case, filed in late 2018, can move forward.

The woman claims she was sexually assaulted at the age of 12 in a foster home where DCYF had placed her. Her assailant was staying in the foster home — the cousin of the foster family’s neighbor.

Four years later, DCYF had placed her in a children’s home and an employee of the home raped her, her suit claims.

In court filings, the New Hampshire Attorney General said the woman had brought her case outside the three-year statute of limitations. But the Supreme Court ruled that the “discovery rule” applies. That rule gives someone three years to file a case after discovering the potential responsibility of a third party.

The victim has argued she became aware of DCYF culpability when the agency released an independent audit in December 2016 that laid out the various shortcomings regarding child welfare and safety.

“The purpose of the discovery rule is to provide injured parties an avenue of relief when they did not and reasonably could not know of the harm or its causal link to a wrongful act or omission by another party,” reads the decision, written by Justice Patrick Donovan.

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