Harvey et al. v. MerchanAnnotate this Case
For a brief time period, OCGA 9-3-33.1 allowed time-barred civil claims for childhood sexual abuse to be revived. During that time period, Joy Caroline Harvey Merchan sued her parents, Walter Jackson Harvey, Jr., and Carole Allyn Hill Harvey, under the revival provision of the statute for damages resulting from alleged childhood sexual abuse that occurred decades prior to the filing of the action, principally in Quebec, Canada. The Harveys moved dismiss and for summary judgment, arguing that Merchan’s claims were time-barred and could not be revived. Alternatively, the Harveys argued the revival provision of the Act violated Georgia’s constitutional ban on retroactive laws and the due process and equal protection clauses of the federal and state constitutions. The trial court largely denied the Harveys’ motions, and the Georgia Supreme Court granted interlocutory review to decide: (1) whether Georgia or Quebec law applied to Merchan’s claims; (2) whether OCGA 9-3-33.1 could revive a cause of action for acts that did not occur in Georgia; and (3) whether Georgia’s constitutional ban on retroactive laws and the due process and equal protection clauses of the federal and state constitutions would bar Merchan’s pursuit of such a cause of action against her parents. The Georgia Supreme Court concluded: (1) Georgia substantive law applied to those torts committed in state, while Quebec substantive law applied to the torts committed there; (2) Georgia’s limitations period applied to torts committed in state, but for torts committed in Quebec, the trial court had to determine in the first instance which limitations period was shorter, and the shorter period would control. Merchan could pursue a cause of action for acts that occurred in Quebec as well as Georgia, because OCGA 9-3-33.1’s definition of childhood sexual abuse was broad enough to cover acts that occurred outside of Georgia. "And such a result does not violate Georgia’s constitutional ban on retroactive laws or the Harveys’ due process or equal protection rights. Therefore, we affirm the trial court’s judgment in part, vacate it in part, and remand the case for the trial court to compare the respective limitations periods."