United States District Court, D. Hawaii
ORDER DENYING THEATINE FATHERS' MOTION TO DISMISS
AND GRANTING ARCHDIOCESE FOR THE MILITARY SERVICES, USA'S
MOTION TO DISMISS
A. Otake, United States District Judge
Michael Croyle (“Michael”), his legal guardian
and mother Sandra Croyle (“Sandra”), and his
father David Croyle (“David”) bring claims
against Defendants Theatine Fathers, Inc. and The Theatine
Fathers Province of Our Lady of Purity (collectively, the
“Theatines”), as well as Defendant Archdiocese
for the Military Services, USA (“AMS”) based on a
Theatine priest's sexual assaults on Michael at Tripler
Army Medical Center in the 1990s. The Theatines move to
dismiss Plaintiffs' claims as untimely, ECF No. 30, and
AMS moves to dismiss because the Court lacks jurisdiction
over it as a nonresident defendant, ECF No. 29. For the
reasons stated below, the Theatines' motion is DENIED and
AMS's motion is GRANTED.
alleged in the amended complaint, in the late 1990s, when
Michael was about eight years old, he lived in Hawai‘i
with his parents while his father was stationed at Tripler
Army Medical Center (“Tripler”). ECF No. 7
(“FAC”) ¶¶ 13, 16. Michael and his
family attended church services at the Catholic chapel at
Tripler, where Father Mark Matson (“Fr. Matson”)
led mass. Id. ¶ 14.
Matson was a member of the Theatine Fathers Province of Our
Lady of Purity, a Catholic religious order based in Colorado
and operated by The Theatine Fathers, Inc. Id.
¶¶ 4-5. The Theatines ordained Fr. Matson in 1976
and served as his employer, giving Fr. Matson his clerical
assignments. Id. ¶ 5. In 1993, the Theatines
allowed Fr. Matson to apply to be a contract priest at
Tripler through the Department of Defense. ECF No. 29-2
(“Foster Decl.”) ¶¶
17-18. Thus, in the 1990s, Fr. Matson served in
Hawai‘i as the Catholic chaplain at Tripler pursuant to
a contract between the Army and the Theatines. Id.
¶ 10. As part of that agreement, the Army required an
endorsement that Fr. Matson was a Catholic priest.
Id. ¶ 11. AMS provides these endorsements so
that Catholic priests can serve as military chaplains, and
provided the endorsement for Fr. Matson here for the
agreement between the Army and the Theatines. Id.
¶¶ 6-7, 11-12.
to his service at Tripler, Fr. Matson had a history of sexual
abuse such that Plaintiffs allege the Theatines and AMS knew
or should have known of the risk of harm to children in close
proximity to Fr. Matson. See Id. ¶¶ 26-27.
Plaintiffs allege Fr. Matson sexually abused a minor seminary
student while he was the rector at a seminary in Colorado in
the 1970s, sexually abused other minor boys in Colorado in
the 1980s, and was acquitted on charges for sexually
assaulting a minor in California in the late 1980s. See
Id. ¶ 26.
Matson then abused Michael in Hawai‘i in the 1990s.
Id. ¶¶ 15-19, 22. Michael attended
religious education classes after mass, but on at least six
occasions, when Fr. Matson appeared to escort Michael out of
the chapel to attend the classes, he instead diverted Michael
to a room to sexually assault him. Id. ¶¶
15-16. Fr. Matson abused Michael both in the chapel and other
rooms at Tripler, by performing oral sex on Michael while
masturbating, sodomizing Michael, and forcing Michael to
touch his penis and perform oral sex on him. Id.
¶ 16-19, 22. Fr. Matson threatened that Michael would go
to hell if he told anyone about these assaults and also told
Michael that the assaults were normal and that Michael's
parents knew about and approved of the assaults. Id.
¶¶ 20, 23.
has suffered from severe mental health injuries and
conditions since the sexual abuse and, as a result of the
abuse, was adjudged to be an incapacitated and disabled
person. Id. ¶¶ 24-25, 32. His mother,
Sandra, was appointed as his guardian and conservator and has
incurred substantial costs relating to Michael's
psychiatric care and treatment. Id. ¶¶ 25,
1998, Fr. Matson was terminated from his position at Tripler
for theft. Id. ¶ 28. Shortly after, in August
1998, police arrested Fr. Matson for sexually assaulting a
minor boy in a park in Hawai‘i and, in 2000, he was
convicted of third-degree sexual assault and first-degree
attempted assault. Id. ¶ 29-31. In August 1998,
AMS withdrew its endorsement of Fr. Matson to serve as a
Catholic chaplain. Id. ¶ 30. The FAC is silent
as to when Michael remembered the abuse or informed Sandra of
filed a Complaint against Defendants on August 6, 2019. ECF
No. 1. After the Court issued an order to show cause
regarding insufficient allegations of subject matter
jurisdiction, ECF No. 6, Plaintiffs filed the FAC on August
23, 2019, ECF No. 9. In the FAC, Michael brings a gross
negligence claim against the Theatines and AMS (Counts I
& II). FAC ¶¶ 34-62. All three Plaintiffs bring
a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress
(“IIED”) against the Theatines and AMS (Count
III). Id. ¶¶ 63-66. Sandra and David also
bring a negligent infliction of emotional distress
(“NIED”) claim against both the Theatines and AMS
(Count IV). Id. ¶¶ 67-73.
moved to dismiss the FAC, arguing the Court lacks personal
jurisdiction over AMS. ECF No. 29. The Theatines moved to
dismiss all claims as untimely. ECF No. 30. Plaintiffs oppose
these motions. ECF Nos. 39-41. The Court held a hearing on
Defendants' motions on December 13, 2019. ECF No. 47.
Court concludes that (1) Plaintiffs' claims cannot be
dismissed as untimely at this juncture, but that (2) it lacks
personal jurisdiction over AMS.
The Theatines' Motion to Dismiss under Rule
Legal Standard under Rule 12(b)(6)
12(b)(6) allows an attack on the pleadings for failure to
state a claim on which relief can be granted. “[W]hen
ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must
accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in
the complaint.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S.
89, 94 (2007) (citation omitted). However, a court is
“not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched
as a factual allegation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). “Nor does a
complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked
assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual
enhancement.'” Id. (alteration in
original) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557)
(citation omitted). A complaint must “state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. This means that the
complaint must plead “factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678 (citation omitted).
here, a claim may be dismissed at this stage on the basis
that it is untimely. However, “[a] claim may be
dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) on the ground that it is barred
by the applicable statute of limitations only when ‘the
running of the statute is apparent on the face of the
complaint.'” Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum
of Art at Pasadena, 592 F.3d 954, 969 (9th Cir. 2010)
(citation omitted). In fact, “[a] complaint cannot be
dismissed unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff
can prove no set of facts that would establish the timeliness
of the claim.” Id. (quoting Supermail
Cargo, Inc. v. United States, 68 F.3d 1204, 1206 (9th
Plaintiffs' Claims Cannot Be Dismissed as Untimely under
Court denies the Theatines' motion because it does not
appear beyond a doubt that Plaintiffs can prove no set of
facts that would establish the timeliness of their claims.
While the parties agree that Hawai'i Revised Statutes
(“HRS”) § 657-1.8 (“Section
657-1.8”) is applicable here, they disagree about how
it applies and whether Plaintiffs' claims are timely
under it. Because the parties offer different interpretations
of the statute, the Court notes that, under Hawai‘i
law, statutory interpretation requires the following steps:
First, the fundamental starting point for statutory
interpretation is the language of the statute itself. Second,
where the statutory language is plain and unambiguous, [a
court's] sole duty is to give effect to its plain and
obvious meaning. Third, implicit in the task of statutory
construction is [a court's] foremost obligation to
ascertain and give effect to the intention of the
legislature, which is to be obtained primarily from the
language contained in the statute itself. Fourth, when there
is doubt, doubleness of meaning, or indistinctiveness or
uncertainty of an expression used in a statute, an ambiguity
exists. And fifth, in construing an ambiguous statute, the
meaning of the ambiguous words may be sought by examining the
context, with which the ambiguous words, phrases, and
sentences may be compared, in order to ascertain their true
Hawaii State Teachers Ass'n v. Abercrombie, 126
Hawai'i 318, 320, 271 P.3d 613, 615 (2012), as
amended (Jan. 27, 2012) (citation omitted). With that in
mind, the Court turns to examine Section 657-1.8.
April 24, 2012, Section 657-1.8 extended the statute of
limitations for damages actions premised on childhood sexual
abuse. Relevant here, it currently
(a) Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, except as
provided under subsection (b), no action for recovery of
damages based on physical, psychological, or other injury or
condition suffered by a minor arising from the sexual abuse
of the minor by any person shall be commenced against the
person who committed the act of sexual abuse more than:
(1) Eight years after the eighteenth birthday of the minor or
the person who committed the act of sexual abuse attains the
age of majority, whichever occurs later; or (2) Three years
after the date the minor discovers or reasonably should have
discovered that psychological injury or illness occurring
after the minor's eighteenth birthday was caused by the
sexual abuse, whichever comes later.
. . . .
(b) For a period of eight years after April 24, 2012, a
victim of child sexual abuse that occurred in this State may
file a claim in a circuit court of this State against the
person who committed the act of sexual abuse if the
victim is barred from filing a claim against the victim's
abuser due to the expiration of the applicable civil statute
of limitations that was in effect prior to April 24, 2012.
A claim may also be brought under this subsection against a
legal entity if:
(1) The person who committed the act of sexual abuse against
the victim was employed by an institution, agency, firm,
business, corporation, or other public or private legal
entity that owed a duty of care to the victim; or (2) The
person who committed the act of sexual abuse and the victim
were engaged in an ...