Daniel Tepfer, State Supreme Court upholds priest abuse law, CT News Blog
The state Supreme Court Friday rebuffed the Roman Catholic Church’s attempt to curb the number of lawsuits brought by those who claim they were abused as children by priests, upholding the law that allows abuse victims to file lawsuit until they are 48.
Upholding a $1.3 judgment for a man who claimed he was abused by a priest at a Derby school in the early 1980s, the state’s highest court ruled the 13-year-old law extending the statute of limitations for abuse lawsuits is constitutional.
“Given the unique psychological and social factors that often result in delayed reporting of child-hood sexual abuse, which frustrated the ability of victims to bring an action under earlier revisions of the statute of limitations, we cannot say that the legislature acted unreasonably or irrationally,” the court ruled.
New Haven lawyer Thomas McNamara, who represented the plaintiff in the Derby case, said sex abuse victims often don’t come to terms with the abuse until much later in life and the state legislature recognized that when in 2002 it voted to extend the statute of limitation on sex abuse cases to 30 years from when a complainant reaches 18. The law was made retroactive.
“Former Hartford Archbishop Henry Mansell and current Archbishop Leonard Blair could have told their lawyers not to try to overturn this statute,” said McNamara. “However, in juxposition to the charitable and kind front the catholic church puts on they attempted essentially to keep these people as victims forever with no recourse, shame on them.”
The ruling was also hailed by the national Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
“This ruling is part of an encouraging pattern by judges in the US to make it easier for victims to use the courts to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded by exposing and punishing wrongdoers whose misdeeds hurt kids or enable others to hurt kids,” said SNAP director David Clohessy. “It’s tragic that Hartford Catholic officials want to make it much harder for victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to protect children, inside and outside of the church.”
The archdiocese released a statement Friday defending its appeal.
“The court’s decision will make it extremely difficult for a person or entity to defend itself against very old claims after people familiar with the claims are dead and pertinent records have been destroyed under a facility’s file retention program,” the statement said. “A non-negligent defendant in that situation is at a great disadvantage and is vulnerable to an adverse jury verdict.”
A Superior Court jury returned the verdict in February 2012 for the local man who claimed he was 13 when he was abused by the Rev. Ivan Ferguson at St. Mary’s grammar school in Derby between 1981 and 1983.
Ferguson died in 2002.
According to testimony and evidence during the trial, in 1979 a mother complained to then-Archbishop John F. Whealon that Ferguson had abused her two young sons in Simsbury. Whealon confronted Ferguson, who admitted the abuse but blamed his behavior on alcohol abuse.
Whealon ordered Ferguson to undergo four months of treatment at the St. Luke Institute, a church clinic in Massachusetts that treated alcoholic clergy.
In 1981, Ferguson was assigned principal of St. Mary’s grammar school in Derby, were the lawsuit claimed he abused the complainant, then an altar boy.
Full article: http://blog.ctnews.com/connecticutpostings/2015/06/26/state-supreme-court-upholds-priest-abuse-law/