HOUSTON, February 26, 2021 - A pair of related decisions by the Texas First Court of Appeal issued on February 25, 2021 reversed the ruling of the trial court that would have prevented Gareld Duane Rollins from bringing sexual-assault claims against a former Texas judge and Bible-study leader at Mr. Rollins’s church. In his lawsuit, Mr. Rollins alleged that Paul Pressler, Southern Baptist Convention board member, sexually abused him as a child and continued to do so over a 20-year period. Mr. Rollins accordingly brought civil claims against Pressler and various associates, including the Southern Baptist Convention, in which Pressler was an influential leader and board member.
After the trial court granted summary judgment against Mr. Rollins based on the running of the five-year statute of limitations, Baker Botts stepped in to handle Mr. Rollin’s appeal to the First Court of Appeals in Houston. On appeal, Mr. Rollins argued that his childhood trauma rendered him of an unsound mind and therefore prevented him from asserting his claims sooner. The First Court of Appeals agreed and reversed the trial court’s ruling.
The court of appeals based its decision in large part on evidence from a leading psychiatrist that diagnosed Mr. Rollins with post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from his childhood trauma. After reviewing this and other evidence in the summary-judgment record, the court concluded that defendants had not met their burden to conclusively negate that Mr. Rollins’s unsound mental statute excused his failure to bring his claims sooner.
Lead counsel for Mr. Rollins, Michael Goldberg of Baker Botts L.L.P., stated “We are pleased with the court of appeals’ decision, which will finally give Duane his long-awaited day in court. The court’s opinion recognizes the impact that childhood trauma can have on individuals like Duane and provides a sensible exception to the legal barriers that so often prevent sexual-assault victims from having their allegations heard by a jury of their peers.” The decisions remand the cases for further proceedings in the trial court.
The Baker Botts team includes Michael Goldberg, Kevin Jacobs and Travis Gray.
The cases are docketed as Rollins v. Pressler, No. 01-19-00460-CV (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] Feb. 25, 2021), and Rollins v. Southern Baptist Convention, No. 01-19-00159-CV (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] Feb. 25, 2021).
Michael S. Goldberg
Kevin T. Jacobs
Travis L. Gray
BAKER BOTTS L.L.P.
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