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Highest New York court rules against Brooklyn clergy abuse victims

[JURIST] The New York Court of Appeals [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn [diocesan website] could use the statute of limitations as a defense in two sexual abuse cases. In one case the plaintiff argued that he suffered abuse from 1963 to 1970 but it left him mentally incapable of bringing a suit before the statute of limitations expired. In the other case, 42 plaintiffs brought a suit against the thirteen individual priests, a monsignor, and both the bishop and the diocese.

In both cases, the court addressed only the legal question of whether equitable estoppel applied to the toll of the statute of limitations of the plaintiffs' claims. In her opinion Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick wrote, "conduct like this might be morally questionable in any defendant, let alone a religious institution, but it is not fraudulent concealment as a matter of law." The court found that because "no separate and subsequent acts of wrongdoing beyond the sexually abusive acts themselves are alleged..." equitable estoppel was inapplicable. 1010 WINS has local coverage. JURIST has more coverage of clergy sexual abuse [JURIST news archive].

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