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Two men gathering sap in the Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont in 1938....

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    • By TheWorldNewsOrg
      via .ORGWorld News
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      BELLOWS FALLS — A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed against the Bellows Falls Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses and Norton True, a former baptized minister of the church.

      The church and True had been sued by Annessa Lewis, who contended she was sexually abused by True sometime between 1991 and 1993 and elders of the church, who were told about the alleged abuse in 1996, failed to do anything about it. The alleged abuse was reported to the Vermont State Police, which concluded there wasn't enough evidence to charge True.

      The court's decision hinged on a reading of Vermont's statute of limitations and previous rulings that defined how an organization can be held liable for crimes committed by a person it had control over.

      Vermont has a six-year statute of limitations for actions based on "childhood sexual abuse," starting from either the date "of the act alleged to have caused the injury or condition" or "the time the victim discovered that the injury or condition was caused by that act." According to the court ruling, because Lewis turned 18 in 2005, the statute of limitations ran out in 2011, and she did not file her lawsuit until 2014.

      "Lewis does not refer to specific dates she sustained or discovered her injuries in her complaint and does not allege how she discovered her injuries. She merely alleges that 'prior to [her] fifth birthday ... Defendant True ... touched [her] ...' [w]ithin the six years predating the filing of this Complaint, [she] discovered that the injuries and conditions as to which she complains herein were caused by the childhood sexual abuse . . . and that Defendants were responsible for the injuries and conditions," wrote Judge J. Garvan Murtha.

      According to documents presented in the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont, Lewis had made comments to family and friends and had written about True's alleged abuse before she turned 18, noting the "abuse could have caused her emotional distress and physical manifestations of emotional distress ..."

      The Vermont law does not provide limitless causes of action, accruing every time a new condition is discovered, wrote Murtha. "Normally, a plaintiff cannot claim that an additional limitations period is inaugurated when additional injuries arising from the same incident are discovered later. A cause of action is generally deemed to accrue at the earliest point at which a plaintiff discovers an injury and its possible cause."

      Murtha noted that "a reasonable factfinder," such as a juror, could conclude that the statute of limitations began ticking when she was 9, when she first revealed the alleged abuse to a family member, or even in her teens, when she told friends about it.

      "Lewis had sufficient information to put a reasonable person on notice that True may have been liable for her injuries: she knew she was sexually abused by True and she knew she suffered flashbacks of the abuse during sexual activity during her teens," wrote Murtha. "Lewis does not allege suppression of the memory of the abuse, and admits she suffered intense depression during her teen years, but asserts she did not receive effective counseling to help her understand that she had been impacted. The law, however, does not require absolute knowledge of a link to trigger accrual of the statute of limitations."

      Because Lewis waited until she was in her late 20s to file a civil suit against True, the statute of limitations had run out, noted Murtha, therefore the case against True was dismissed.

      Lewis also claimed the Bellows Falls Jehovah's Witnesses Congregation and its national organization, Watchtower, were negligent in supervising True. However, wrote Murtha, her claim that the church could held negligent had to pass three elements to prevent dismissal, including "whether the Congregation ... undertook to provide protective monitoring services; failed to so monitor True; and the failure increased the risk of harm to Plaintiff. ... The Congregation argued that Lewis's claim fails as a matter of law because they did not undertake to provide protective monitoring services, did not breach any duty, and there was no increased risk of harm."

      "The fatal flaw in Plaintiff's argument," wrote Murtha, "is that Lewis's mother's friend ... took Lewis to her father True's home while she was babysitting Lewis on the day the abuse occurred. Lewis's mother was not aware (her friend) sometimes took the Lewis children to True's home or that she did so on the day the abuse occurred. Even assuming the Congregation and Watchtower had a duty to vigilantly monitor True in the congregation setting and they breached that duty thereby increasing the risk of harm to Lewis, no reasonable factfinder could conclude that breach was the cause of Lewis's sexual abuse because a third party provided True access to Lewis at True's home."

      However, Lewis provided no evidence that True was subject to the Congregation's control. 

      Murtha dismissed the suit against True, the congregation and Watchtower "with prejudice," which means she is barred from bringing an action on the same claim. However, Lewis could appeal his decision to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      MONTPELIER, Vt. –  Two adult sisters are suing a Jehovah's Witness congregation in Vermont, saying they were sexually abused by a minister when they were minor children and the church did nothing to protect them.
      Twenty-three-year-old Miranda and 27-year-old Annessa Lewis say they were abused in the 1990s at age 4 and 5.
      The sisters have sued the Bellows Falls congregation of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the then-ministerial servant Norton True, as well the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York. They say their mother reported the allegations to the congregation but no action was taken against True.
      The congregation and the Watchtower Bible and Track Society of New York did not return messages seeking comment. True could not be reached; there is no phone listing for him in Vermont.
      Source: 
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