¶ 1 Ralph Louis Colosimo and Charles Matthew Colosimo filed suit against Judge Memorial High School and its former administrators (collectively, "Judge"); the Salt Lake Diocese, Judge's Board of Financial Trustees, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, the Archdiocese of San Francisco (collectively, the "institutional defendants"); and individual defendant James F. Rapp, a former teacher at Judge. The Colosimos seek damages arising from their alleged sexual abuse by Rapp more than three decades ago. The district court entered default judgment against Rapp, but dismissed the claims against the institutional defendants on statute of limitations grounds. The Colosimos appealed, arguing that the discovery rule tolled the running of the statute until they became aware of their claims against the institutional defendants. The court of appeals affirmed the dismissal. We granted certiorari to determine whether the Colosimos' awareness of the sexual abuse entailed a reasonable knowledge of, or a duty to inquire about, the facts necessary to support their claims that the institutional defendants knew of the abuse and failed to adequately supervise Rapp or prevent the abuse. For the reasons detailed below, we conclude that it did and therefore affirm the dismissal of the Colosimos' claims.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
¶ 2 Ralph and Charles allege that Rapp sexually abused them on repeated occasions from approximately 1970 to 1975. At the time of the alleged abuse, Rapp was a Catholic priest, a member of the Oblates, and a staff member of Judge. The Diocese had supervisory authority over Rapp in his teaching capacity, apparently sharing this responsibility with the Oblates, a group of Catholic priests who also supervised Judge. The Colosimos allege that the Archdiocese also "supervises and exerts control over the Diocese," although the Archdiocese disputes this claim.
¶ 3 Rapp allegedly began abusing Ralph in late 1970 or early 1971 when Ralph was a minor student at Judge, and the abuse allegedly continued after Ralph turned eighteen on September 20, 1971. Through Ralph, Rapp was introduced to the Colosimo family and allegedly began sexually abusing Ralph's younger brother Charles, sometimes while brandishing a gun. At some point in 1975, Rapp admitted to Ralph that he was a pedophile and that he was abusing Charles.
¶ 4 The Colosimos knew that they had been abused by Rapp and that they had suffered some immediate injury as a result. Ralph alleges, however, that he repressed the memory of most instances of the abuse until a professional therapist allowed "him to recover his memories and to understand the causal connection between the assaults and his injuries." Charles never forgot the abuse, but maintains that he "was unaware of the connection between the abuse and his injuries until he began therapy years later."
¶ 5 At the time of the abuse, the Colosimos knew that Rapp was a Roman Catholic priest, a teacher, and an Oblate and that these roles were intertwined in his position as an employee of Judge. Despite this knowledge, the Colosimos made no inquiry or investigation during the statutory period regarding any potential claims against any of the institutional defendants.
¶ 6 In May 2002, the Washington Post published an article detailing Rapp's history of sexually abusing young boys. It indicated that even though Judge students had complained about Rapp, school authorities had taken no apparent action against him. The article suggested that Rapp simply moved from state to state until an Oklahoma court eventually convicted him of two counts of lewd molestation. Upon reading the article, the Colosimos realized that the institutional defendants may have had knowledge of Rapp's pedophilic actions.
¶ 7 On February 18, 2003, the Colosimos filed suit against Rapp and the institutional defendants, asserting claims for aggravated sexual assault and battery, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and false imprisonment. The Colosimos allege that the institutional defendants knew that Rapp had sexually abused children prior to abusing the Colosimos, yet "deliberately concealed from [the Colosimos], other Judge students, and parishioners [their] knowledge of" Rapp's abusive history in order to protect their own interests. The institutional defendants responded with motions to dismiss, arguing that the statute of limitations had run.
¶ 8 The Colosimos opposed the motions to dismiss, contending that the discovery rule tolled the statute of limitations. In the alternative, they requested additional time to conduct discovery to obtain the evidence needed to resist the motions to dismiss. After considering the pleadings, memoranda, and affidavits on file, the district court treated the motions to dismiss as summary judgment motions and dismissed the Colosimos' complaint because it was not filed within the limitations period.
¶ 9 The Colosimos appealed to this court, which transferred the appeal to the court of appeals. The court of appeals affirmed the district court's dismissal, reasoning that the Colosimos' claims "do not fall within any of the recognized situations in which the discovery rule is applicable because [the Colosimos] could have brought their claims within the limitation periods based upon the available
¶ 10 This court granted the Colosimos' petition for certiorari. We have jurisdiction pursuant to Utah Code section 78-2-2(3)(a).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
¶ 11 On certiorari review, this court reviews the decision of the court of appeals, not the decision of the district court.
¶ 12 The Colosimos contend that summary judgment was erroneously granted because the running of the limitations period was tolled by the discovery rule. Specifically, they argue that their awareness of their sexual abuse put them on neither actual nor inquiry notice of potential claims against the institutional defendants. It is this issue on which we granted certiorari.
¶ 13 We begin by explaining that the discovery rule can toll the statute of limitations when there is (1) a statutory tolling provision, (2) an exceptional circumstance, or (3) fraudulent concealment. We then proceed to examine whether the limitations period on the Colosimos' claims was tolled for any of these reasons. We conclude that the period was not tolled because the Colosimos' knowledge of their abuse and the relationship between Rapp and the institutional defendants was sufficient to put them on inquiry notice of their claims. We therefore affirm the court of appeals.
I. THE COLOSIMOS ARE NOT ELIGIBLE FOR APPLICATION OF THE DISCOVERY RULE
¶ 14 As a general matter, "a statute of limitations begins to run upon the happening of the last event necessary to complete the cause of action."
¶ 15 The discovery rule tolls a statute of limitations "until the discovery of facts forming the basis for the cause of action."
A. The Statutory Discovery Rule
¶ 16 The statutory discovery rule applies where "a relevant statute of limitations, by its own terms, mandates application of the discovery rule."
¶ 17 A plaintiff is deemed to have discovered his action when he has actual knowledge of the fraud "or by reasonable diligence and inquiry should know, the relevant facts of the fraud perpetrated against him."
¶ 18 In this case, the Colosimos knew that they had been abused and that Rapp was the abuser. They also knew or were constructively on notice of the relationships between Rapp and the institutional defendants and of the duties owed to them by those institutional defendants. Specifically, the Colosimos knew that Rapp was a priest, an Oblate, and a teacher at Judge. Moreover, the relationships between Rapp and the various institutional defendants and the oversight functions that the institutional defendants allegedly exercised over Rapp were either known to the Colosimos or discoverable during the limitations period. This knowledge was sufficient to trigger a duty to inquire into potential claims against the institutional defendants. Because the Colosimos failed to do so, they cannot now allege that they lacked knowledge of their claims. We accordingly hold that Utah Code section 78-12-26(3) did not toll the limitations period on the Colosimos' fraud claims.
B. Exceptional Circumstances
¶ 19 We next consider the Colosimos' claim that the applicable statutes of limitation were subject to tolling under the exceptional circumstances doctrine. Under this doctrine, the limitations period is tolled "where the case presents exceptional circumstances and the application of the general rule would be irrational or unjust, regardless of any showing that the defendant . . . prevented the discovery of the cause of action."
¶ 20 The Colosimos assert that they are entitled to application of the exceptional circumstances doctrine for two reasons. First, they argue that their lack of knowledge regarding the causal connection between the abuse and their injuries constitutes an exceptional circumstance. Second, they argue that the horrendous nature of child sexual abuse constitutes an exceptional circumstance that justifies tolling the statute indefinitely in those instances where the fact of abuse is clearly and convincingly corroborated.
1. The Causal Connection Theory
¶ 21 We first consider the Colosimos' claim that their lack of knowledge regarding the causal connection between the abuse and their injuries constitutes an exceptional circumstance. Although Utah courts have not directly addressed this question, they have analyzed cases involving repression of sexual abuse, and it is with these cases that we begin our analysis.
¶ 22 Utah courts have consistently held that the statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases can be tolled only in narrow circumstances. For example, in Olsen v. Hooley, we held that a plaintiff who has repressed all memory of sexual abuse cannot be deemed to have reasonable knowledge of the abuse.
¶ 23 Similarly, in O'Neal v. Division of Family Services, we refused to toll the statute in a case involving a plaintiff who had been sexually abused as a teenager and was aware of the abuse, but who had psychologically been unable to reveal the abuse until many years later.
¶ 24 In Burkholz v. Joyce, we examined whether the discovery rule tolls the statute of limitations when, "during the limitations period, the plaintiff's knowledge of the operative facts underlying his cause of action is interrupted by a period of psychological repression during which [the] plaintiff is unaware
¶ 25 Courts from other jurisdictions have even more explicitly refused to toll statutes of limitation in cases where plaintiffs have been unable to causally connect their knowledge of being sexually abused with their injuries. For example, in Parks v. Kownacki, a plaintiff was abused by a priest when she was a minor, and although she was aware of the abuse from the time it occurred, she was not aware of the connection between the abuse and her injuries.
¶ 26 Similarly, in Kraft v. St. John Lutheran Church, the Eighth Circuit, applying Nebraska law, refused to toll the statute of limitations for a plaintiff who allegedly had been abused by a teacher at a religious school.
¶ 27 These courts were unwilling to adopt a causal connection rule because their precedent clearly foreclosed application of the discovery rule where a victim was sufficiently aware of the underlying facts to know that a tort had been committed.
¶ 28 The Colosimos attempt to avoid this conclusion by relying on the case of Foil v. Ballinger, where we stated that "[w]e see no basis for making a legal distinction between having no knowledge of an injury . . . and no knowledge that a known injury was caused by unknown negligence."
¶ 29 There is no similar statutory basis for tolling the limitations period in this
¶ 30 In fact, many of the cases the Colosimos cite in support of their causal connection theory
¶ 31 Because the Colosimos do not allege that they repressed all knowledge of their abuse, they had knowledge of the operative facts giving rise to their claims. Their inability to connect the abuse with their injuries does not render them eligible for application of the exceptional circumstances version of the discovery rule.
2. The Clear and Convincing Requirement
¶ 32 The Colosimos also argue that the horrific nature of child sexual abuse constitutes an exceptional circumstance justifying tolling. The Colosimos urge us to follow the lead of the Nevada Supreme Court in Petersen v. Bruen
¶ 33 We recognize the horrific effects of child abuse and the serious problems that victims of abuse face as adults as they attempt to understand the causal connection between their injuries and the abuse. But we nevertheless decline to adopt the Petersen rule because it is contrary to Utah's statutory scheme. In 1992, the Utah legislature passed a statute specifically addressing the limitations period in cases of child sexual abuse.
¶ 34 Were we to adopt the Nevada rule, we would effectively be extending greater rights
¶ 35 Moreover, it would be particularly unwise for us to abolish the limitations period in this case where the claims at issue are against institutional defendants that were not the actual perpetrators of the abuse. The assumption that the defendant is the abuser underlies the Petersen opinion and the arguments of legal scholars who advocate abolishing limitations periods in child sexual abuse cases.
¶ 36 We similarly can discern no persuasive justification for eliminating the statute of limitations in this case. Although we recognize that child abuse has devastating consequences, prior precedent, legislative intent, and the fact that this case involves nonperpetrator institutional defendants all counsel against eliminating the statute of limitations.
C. Fraudulent Concealment
¶ 37 We next examine whether the Colosimos can rely on the fraudulent concealment doctrine to toll the statute. The Colosimos allege that they are entitled to rely on this doctrine because the institutional defendants concealed their responsibility for the abuse. Because a plaintiff must diligently investigate his claim to prevail under a theory of fraudulent concealment, we examine whether the Colosimos' knowledge of the abuse and of Rapp's connection with the institutional defendants imposed on them a duty to investigate potential claims against the institutional defendants.
¶ 38 We recently articulated the requirements of the fraudulent concealment version of the discovery rule in Russell Packard Development, Inc. v. Carson.
¶ 39 In Carson, we emphasized that a party seeking to take advantage of the rule must act in a reasonable and diligent manner.
¶ 40 Relying on this language, the Colosimos assert that their failure to inquire about possible causes of action against the institutional defendants should be excused because any such inquiry would have been futile. We disagree. The language on which the Colosimos rely does not excuse a plaintiff's lack of inquiry whenever he alleges that any inquiry would have been futile. Rather, it serves only to illustrate the concept that a plaintiff must be reasonably diligent in pursuing his claims. Thus, "in cases of fraudulent concealment, a plaintiff will not automatically be charged with constructive notice of a claim simply by virtue of being on inquiry notice of it";
¶ 41 In Carson, we repeatedly described the requirements of the fraudulent concealment doctrine using terms such as "reasonableness" and "diligence." And we emphasized that although a plaintiff's cause of action does not begin to run until "a plaintiff first has actual or constructive knowledge of the relevant facts forming the basis of the cause of action,"
¶ 42 This reading of Carson is bolstered by Berenda v. Langford,
¶ 43 In Berenda, we reasoned that "questions of when a plaintiff should reasonably begin inquiring about the defendant's wrongdoing and whether, once on notice, the plaintiff has acted with reasonable diligence to discover the facts forming the basis of the cause of action are all highly fact-dependent legal questions."
¶ 44 Other jurisdictions have similarly held that plaintiffs with knowledge of underlying facts must reasonably investigate their claims in order to rely on the fraudulent concealment doctrine.
¶ 45 Similarly, in Cevenini v. Archbishop of Washington, a priest sexually abused the plaintiffs when they were minors.
¶ 46 A California court in Mark K. v. Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles similarly refused to toll the statute of limitations on the plaintiffs' claims where the plaintiffs were aware of the underlying abuse but had made no effort to investigate their claims.
¶ 47 Plaintiffs are not excused from the due diligence requirement simply by alleging that any investigation into the culpability of the institutional defendants would have been futile. Where a plaintiff is aware he has been abused and knows the identity of the abuser and the relationship between the abuser and any institutional defendants, he must undertake a reasonable investigation into claims against the institutional defendants before he can qualify for tolling under the fraudulent concealment doctrine.
¶ 48 In summary, we recognize a futility component to the fraudulent concealment doctrine in only two narrow circumstances. First, where a plaintiff has made inquiry and then been misled by the defendants, he has raised sufficient evidence of the futility of further investigation to survive summary judgment.
¶ 50 Here, however, the Colosimos were aware of the abuse by Rapp and had either actual or constructive knowledge of the relationship between Rapp and the institutional defendants. These facts were sufficient to put them on inquiry notice of potential causes of action against the institutional defendants and to impose on them a duty to undertake reasonable inquiry as to the existence of their claims. Because the Colosimos concede they made no such inquiry, they can only speculate that any inquiry would have been futile or that the defendant entities would have affirmatively concealed any knowledge of the abuse or Rapp's pedophilic tendencies.
¶ 51 Mere speculation about the futility of a nonexistent inquiry is insufficient to toll the limitations period. Otherwise, any time a tortfeasor failed to affirmatively disclose potential wrongdoing, any plaintiff, even one who was on inquiry notice, could allege that any inquiry would have been futile, thereby tolling the limitations period.
¶ 52 Moreover, under the Colosimos' theory, claims against direct tortfeasors such as Rapp would be barred by applicable statutes of limitation, while claims against remote or vicariously liable tortfeasors would remain viable indefinitely until the plaintiffs stumbled upon evidence alerting them to their claims. This would effectively eliminate statutes of limitation as a defense for remote tortfeasors, while retaining them as a defense for those most culpable. We fail to see the logic in such a scheme. We therefore hold that the fraudulent concealment version of the discovery rule did not toll the limitations period on the Colosimos' claims.
II. THE COLOSIMOS ARE NOT ENTITLED TO DISCOVERY
¶ 53 The Colosimos alternatively argue that they should be permitted to conduct discovery. They contend that they need discovery on the issue of whether any inquiries into the culpability of the institutional defendants would have been futile. Having determined that a plaintiff with knowledge of his abuse and the relationship between the abuser and the individual defendants is under a duty to investigate, the Colosimos, who undertook no investigation, would not be able to discover any set of facts that would justify tolling the limitations period. We therefore affirm the court of appeals' holding that the Colosimos are not entitled to conduct discovery.
¶ 54 Although we recognize the troubling nature of child sexual abuse, prior precedent and policy considerations counsel against tolling the statute of limitations in cases where a plaintiff is aware that he has been sexually abused but fails to make the causal connection between the abuse and his injuries. The limitations period similarly cannot be tolled under a fraudulent concealment or fraud theory in cases where a plaintiff with knowledge of his abuse and the relationship of the abuser to third-party defendants fails to investigate potential claims arising from the abuse. Here, the Colosimos were aware they had been abused by Rapp and were also aware of
¶ 55 Chief Justice DURHAM, Associate Chief Justice WILKINS, Justice DURRANT, and Justice NEHRING concur in Justice PARRISH's opinion.