Court: Sister can sue brother for sexual assault

The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that a state law preventing family members from suing other family members does not prevent a Walnut Grove woman from suing her brother for sexually assaulting her as a child.

Mary Lichteig, who grew up in Walnut Grove, claims she was sexually abused by her brother as a child in the early ’70s, but didn’t remember the abuse until she saw a therapist in 2005. He denied it. She also said the brother raped her older sisters while she was in the room, an allegation the brother acknowledges.

She sued him for damages but a lower court threw the case out because Minnesota law prohibits one sibling from suing another for personal injury.

A federal appeals court, however sent the case back to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which today said Minnesota’s law does not prevent a sibling from suing another in cases of sexual abuse.

The court said a Minnesota law that extended the statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases to six years from the point from which a victim remembers sexual abuse, can be applied in this case even though the original statute of limitations had already run out by the time the law was passed.

“In addition to the language establishing the effective date of the statute of limitations, the purpose of the statute to protect young sexual abuse victims suggests that the Legislature intended the statute to be retroactive. We hold that the delayed discovery statute applies retroactively,” outgoing chief justice Eric Magnuson wrote.

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