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Maness v. Gordon

Supreme Court of Alaska

March 21, 2014

BRET F. MANESS, Appellant,
v.
MIKE GORDON, WILLIAM MILLER, SHELLEY (DOE) GORDON, JOHN DOE, FRED POTTS, MARK KOLSTAD, ARVID “B.J.” BJORTON, MICHAEL JUSTICE, JAMES SERFLING, TERRENCE STAHLMAN, ROBERT PIPKIN, SR., JUDITH RAE MANESS, Appellees.

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska No. 3AN-07-11407 CI, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, John Suddock, Judge.

Bret F. Maness, pro se, Anchorage, Appellant. Kevin T. Fitzgerald, Ingaldson Fitzgerald, P.C., Anchorage, for Appellees

Gordon and Gordon. Howard S. Trickey, Jermain Dunnagan & Owens, P.C., Anchorage, for Appellee Serfling.

Before: Winfree, Stowers, and Bolger, Justices.[Fabe, Chief Justice, and Maassen, Justice, not participating.]

OPINION

BOLGER, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

Bret Maness sued for assault and battery, sexual assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment, based on incidents alleged to have occurred in the 1970s. The superior court concluded that Maness's claims are barred by the statute of limitations. In this appeal, Maness argues that the discovery rule tolled the statute of limitations because he provided an affidavit stating that he suffered from repressed memory syndrome and has only recently recovered memories of these assaults. But we agree with the superior court's conclusion that expert testimony is necessary to support a claim based on repressed memory syndrome and affirm the grant of summary judgment.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Bret Maness alleges that the defendants committed a series of sexual assaults against him in the 1970s, when he was still a child. He further alleges that, although the defendants used a combination of date rape drugs and hypnosis to cause him to forget these incidents, he recovered memories of the assaults shortly before filing his complaint.

Maness filed a complaint in the Anchorage superior court on October 30, 2007, seeking "general and special" damages for "intentional and/or negligent torts" and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendants James Serfling, Michael Gordon, and Shelley Gordon deny all of his allegations.[1]

Serfling and the Gordons moved for summary judgment on the ground that Maness's claims are barred by the statute of limitations. Maness opposed their motions, arguing that, because he recovered repressed memories of the sexual assaults less than a year before filing his complaint, the discovery rule applies, and his claims are not time-barred. To rebut Maness's argument, Serfling produced an affidavit from expert witness Dr. Charles J. Brainerd, a developmental and experimental psychologist. Dr. Brainerd concluded, based on Maness's deposition, that "what Mr. Maness describes having experienced regarding his memories is simply not an example of the condition known as repressed memory syndrome."

On May 11, 2011, the superior court ordered Maness to "submit an affidavit of a qualified expert supporting his claim, within 120 days." When Maness failed to provide any expert testimony, the court granted the defendants' motions for summary judgment, [2] explaining

[b]ecause Maness's claims of hypnotic deception and recovered memory are outside of the lay expertise of a jury, expert testimony is required in order to prove these claims. Defendant Serfling has provided expert testimony and other evidence demonstrating that he is entitled to summary judgment on these claims, and ...

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