IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE
IN AND FOR KENT COUNTY
JANE DOE #7,
INDIAN RIVER SCHOOL DISTRICT, :
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE
INDIAN RIVER SCHOOL DISTRICT; :
CHARLES M. BIRELEY, KELLEY R. :
WILLING, NINA LOU BUNTING,
DR. DONALD G. HATTIER,
RANDALL L. HUGHES, II, DONNA :
M. MITCHELL, PATRICIA S.
OLIPHANT, ROBERT D. WILSON,
SHELLY R. WILSON, SUSAN S.
BUNTING and DANA GOODMAN,
C.A. No: K09C-12-042 (RBY)
Submitted: December 11, 2011
Decided: April 20, 2012
Upon Consideration of the District Defendants’
Motion for Reconsideration of Commissioner’s Order
OPINION AND ORDER
Raeann Warner, Esq., Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A., Wilmington, Delaware and Thomas
S. Neuberger, Esq., and Stephen J. Neuberger, Esq., The Neuberger Firm, P.A.,
Wilmington, Delaware for Plaintiff.
David H. Williams, Esq., James H. McMackin, III, Esq., and Allyson Britton
DiRocco, Esq., Morris, James LLP, Wilmington, Delaware for District Defendants.
Dana Goodman, Pro se.
In this civil action based upon the sexual abuse of a child by an adult, Plaintiff
filed a motion to amend her complaint in order to add two parties as defendants. The
Motion was heard before Commissioner Freud. The Commissioner did not discuss
whether or not 10 Del. C. § 8145 eliminated the statute of limitations. Rather, the
Commissioner allowed Plaintiff to amend her complaint in accordance with Superior
Court Rule 15(c). The Order was signed on December 15, 2011. District Defendants
filed the instant Motion for Reconsideration of the Commissioner’s Order.1
Title 10, Section 8145(a) of the Delaware Code eliminated the statute of
limitations for claims based upon sexual abuse of a minor by an adult. The
elimination thereof is not limited to claims against the actual abuser. Accordingly,
Plaintiff may amend her complaint. Any issues pertaining to the Commissioner’s
application of Superior Court Rule 15(c) are moot. District Defendants’ Motion for
Reconsideration of Commissioner’s Order is DENIED.
On December 23, 2009, Jane Doe #7 (Plaintiff) filed a complaint seeking
damages in connection to sexual abuse committed against her between January 2008
and April 2008. According to the complaint, Plaintiff, while seventeen years of age,
engaged in a consensual, sexual relationship with her Principal, Dana Goodman
(Goodman), while he was employed at Sussex Central High School.
The initial complaint named as defendants: the Indian River School District;
the Board of Education of the Indian River School District; Charles Bireley; Kelly
Willing; Nina Lou Bunting; Dr. Donald Hattier; Randall Hughes II; Donna Mitchell;
“District Defendants” refers to all defendants except Dana Goodman.
Patricia Oliphant; Robert Wilson; Shelly Wilson; and Susan Bunting. With the
exception of Susan Bunting, who was Superintendent of the Indian River School
District, each individual named as a defendant was a member of the Board of
Education of the Indian River School District.2
On November 28, 2011, two years after the complaint was filed, Plaintiff filed
a motion to amend her complaint to add Celeste Bunting and Mike Owens as District
Defendants. Bunting was employed as the Indian River School District’s Personnel
Director after Goodman’s hire and at the time during which he engaged in a
relationship with Plaintiff. Owens occupied that position when Goodman was hired
In her motion, Plaintiff argued that, pursuant to 10 Del. C. § 8145(a), there is
no statute of limitations for actions based upon sexual abuse of a child by an adult.
Accordingly, Plaintiff maintained that she was entitled to amend her pleadings in
accordance with Superior Court Civil Rule 15(a). Moreover, Plaintiff argued that the
amendment was proper because it related back to the original complaint under
Superior Court Civil Rule 15(c).
In response to Plaintiff’s motion, District Defendants argued that Plaintiff’s
claims against Bunting and Owens were barred by the three year statute of limitations
set forth in 10 Del. C. § 8106. From there, because three years had elapsed since the
last alleged incident of abuse, District Defendants argued that the claims did not
relate back to the date of the original complaint, because they did not satisfy the
requirements of Superior Court Civil Rule 15(c).
The Commissioner did not consider whether 10 Del. C. § 8145(a) eliminated
the statute of limitations for civil actions based on sexual abuse of a minor by an
By stipulation of the parties, certain defendants have been dismissed from the action.
adult. Instead, the Commissioner granted Plaintiff’s motion on the grounds that the
action was “linked.”
District Defendants argued before the Commissioner, and now in their motion
for reconsideration, that Plaintiff’s amended complaint does not relate back to her
original complaint, because her failure to name Bunting and Owens in the original
complaint was a matter of choice, as opposed to a matter of mistake. As to 10 Del.
C. § 8145, District Defendants assert that it does not eliminate the statute of
limitations in actions against an institution. District Defendants agree that §8145(a)
eliminated the statute of limitations for claims involving child sexual abuse, but only
so far as those claims are asserted against the actual, human abuser. Thus, District
Defendants contend that the Commissioner’s decision was contrary to law.
Plaintiff contends that § 8145(a) eliminated the statute of limitations all
together, regardless of whether the defendant is the abuser, an institution or an
employee thereof. In the alternative, Plaintiff contends that her amendment, adding
Bunting and Owens, does, in fact, relate back. In reliance upon either argument,
Plaintiff contends that District Defendants’ motion should be denied.
A determination that § 8145 eliminates the statute of limitations renders the
relation back analysis moot. Section 8145 states, in pertinent part, as follows:
“(a) A cause of action based upon the sexual abuse of a minor by an
adult may be filed in the Superior Court of this State at any time
following the commission of the act or acts that constituted the sexual
abuse. A civil cause of action for sexual abuse of a minor shall be based
upon sexual acts that would constitute a criminal offense under the
Section 8145(a) eliminated the statute of limitations for actions based upon
sexual abuse of a child by an adult. It states that “a cause of action based upon the
sexual abuse of a minor by an adult may be filed...at any time following the
commission of the act or acts that constituted the sexual abuse.” The suggestion
made by District Defendants that the statute should be read to apply only to claims
against the abuser is not supported by the specific language of the statute which
appears to preserve any “cause of action.” The import is that the legislature intended
to eliminate the statute of limitations for claims against any defendant moving
Further, reference to the legislative history appears to support that
conclusion. §8145 was introduced, initially, as Senate Bill 29. During the April 4,
2007 Senate Debate in consideration thereof, the Senate was apprised of the fact that,
there could be liability against an institution under subsection (a). Accordingly,
there is no statute of limitations for civil suits for damages based upon sexual abuse
of a minor by an adult.
Because Plaintiff’s claims are not subject to a statute of limitations, she may
amend her complaint without consideration of Superior Court Rule 15(c). Any issues
regarding the Commissioner’s application of the relation back doctrine are moot.
District Defendants’ Motion for Reconsideration of Commissioner’s Order is,
SO ORDERED this 20th day of April, 2012.
/s/ Robert B. Young
cc: Opinion Distribution