Kathleen Nuccio alleged that she was sexually abused by her father when she was three years old. He continued to sexually abuse her for ten long years. He threatened her life when he held a chisel to her throat and vowed to kill her if she ever told anyone of the abuse. Luke Nuccio not only sexually defiled his daughter but also verbally abused her and physically beat her until she was seventeen years old. One such beating caused damage so severe to Kathleen's ear that she was forced to have surgery. Kathleen never spoke of the abuse during the first forty years of her life. Kathleen Nuccio, at the age of forty-four, filed suit to recover for intentional infliction of emotional distress for sexual abuse allegedly inflicted upon her as a child by her father. Kathleen told the court that she experienced traumatic amnesia for over thirty years. Luke Nuccio moved for summary judgment based on the statute of limitations. After the United States District Court for the District of Maine granted the motion, Kathleen appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Finding no clear and controlling precedent in state law, the court of appeals certified a question to the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine, sitting as the Law Court. The case presented the issue of whether equitable estoppel barred Luke Nuccio from raising the statute of limitations defense because Kathleen's childhood memories of sexual abuse remained repressed as a result of her father's threats and acts of violence. The Law Court held that Luke Nuccio should not be estopped from raising the statute of limitations as an affirmative defense. Generally, this Note considers the various legal and equitable remedies available to an adult who has repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse, including the procedural and substantive burdens that she faces in asserting her claim. Finally, this Note concludes that, although the Law Court's decision in Nuccio to deny Kathleen relief based on equitable estoppel was justifiable, the court should invoke an equitable remedy, like fraudulent concealment, in favor of victims with repressed memories who were abused prior to 1991 until the Legislature extends the discovery rule to the prior statute of limitations.
Christina J. D'Appolonia,
Nuccio v. Nuccio: The Doctrine of Equitable Estoppel Will Not Bar the Statute of Limitations Defense in a Child Sexual Abuse Case Involving Repressed Memory,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol49/iss1/8