A state appeals court on Thursday revived a lawsuit brought by a woman who was the victim of sexual assault by an athletic coach while she was a child, finding a state law allows the suit to proceed.
The ruling issued by the state 4th District Court of Appeals reverses a Dane County judge’s ruling last year that said a different statute applied and tossed the lawsuit as having been filed at least 15 years too late.
The lawsuit is against the Amateur Athletic Union, which organized and sanctioned youth basketball events that the woman took part in from 1997 to 2000 as part of a team coached by Shelton Kingcade.
In 2016, Kingcade was convicted of repeatedly assaulting the woman when she was between the ages of 13 and 16, along with another teen, in the 1990s. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
The woman filed her lawsuit initially in U.S. District Court against Dane County, the Madison School District and the former director of the Neighborhood Intervention program, seeking damages for allegedly neglecting their responsibilities and allowing the woman, then 13, to be sexually assaulted by Kingcade over a period of more than two years.
She alleges that the AAU was negligent in its hiring and supervision of Kingcade and that its negligence caused Kingcade’s acts against the woman.
The county, the school district and the former NIP director were ultimately dismissed as defendants in the lawsuit. A federal judge ruled later that the claim against the remaining defendant, the AAU, was a claim under state law, not federal law.
In May 2021, Circuit Judge Rhonda Lanford dismissed that last claim, finding that state law required it to be filed within three years, though she noted that as a minor at the time of the incidents, the woman had until she was 20. At the time the woman first filed her lawsuit she was 34.
But a three-judge panel of the state appeals court, led by Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, disagreed, finding that under state law, in actions related to violations of state laws involving child sexual assault, the woman had until she was 35 to file her lawsuit.
“Here, (the woman’s) action for negligent hiring and supervision alleges that AAU is liable for damage for the injuries that were caused by acts that constitute a violation of one or more (child sexual assault statutes), committed by AAU’s alleged ‘servant,'” Kloppenburg wrote for the court.
A state statute that allows the woman to bring her action up to age 35 is the correct statute, she wrote, “based on the pertinent language of the statute and consistent with case law.”
An attorney representing the AAU did not respond to a request for comment. Barring an appeal to the state Supreme Court, the case will return to Lanford’s court.