Pittsburgh Press Conference for sex abuse victims shut out by Legislature

Matthews & Associates Law Firm is holding a press conference on Friday, Dec. 6 at 9 a.m. at Pittsburgh’s Embassy Suites’ Heinz Room (535 Smithfield). We have filed cases for three Pennsylvania men who claim to have been sexually abused by Catholic Church priests.

The petitions filed in our clients’ cases, newsworthy on at least two fronts, will hopefully show other long-suffering abuse survivors that they may not have to wait on a hope and a prayer that the Pennsylvania state legislature will change the state’s laws and give victims a chance to hold their abuser(s) accountable.

Crimes and Coverups

The Catholic church in Pennsylvania and elsewhere has thus far evaded liability for most priest sex abuse crimes by having cases dismissed or never brought at all due to statute of limitations (SOL) arguments. Except in the states that recently changed their laws – like Calif., NY, NJ, and some others – the church has usually been able to evade sex abuse lawsuits for their not being filed in a “timely” manner. The coverup, however, is another legal matter entirely, and one in which our Pennsylvania clients have case law on their side.

Two victims in these cases were abused by a priest named in the 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report – Rev. Francis Pucci.  While their claims of the actual sexual abuse were known to them, the collective coverup of the perpetrators’ crimes puts direct liability back on the Catholic Church, through  its Dioceses, Institutions, and Employees. Arguably, this coverup was not known, nor could it have been known, to our Plaintiffs, and likely many other victims, until the release of the 2018 Grand Jury Report.

Fraudulent Concealment Case Law

Accordingly, we have argued that case law (Rice v. Altoona-Johnstown) allows these cases to move forward due to Defendants’ “fraudulent concealment” of their ongoing knowledge and cover up of sexual abuse of minor children within their institutions that prevented our Plaintiffs’, and likely other victims’, knowledge of the Church’s  involvement. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has allowed Rice to be valid case law as of now by denying the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s Application for Extraordinary Relief, which requested (1) to take jurisdiction of claims filed against them for child sex abuse (including our Smith case) and (2) overruling Rice, in order to prevent victims from utilizing it to argue that they are within the SOL.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Case Filings

Currently we have two cases filed in Pittsburgh: (1) Smith v. Diocese of Pittsburgh, et al. and (2) Purdy, et al. v. Diocese of Pittsburgh, et al. Our petitions allege that church officials knew, know, and/or should have known that these priests were sexually abusing minor children. Instead of removing, reporting, supervising, vetting, and monitoring these priests so that they would no longer have access to minors, Defendants collectively hid their priests’ abusive histories, as well as their own knowledge of these deviant acts, and transferred them to other parishes/dioceses, or even placed them on “sick leave” or let them retire early, where they would still have total access to other children.

While the Governor recently signed a bill allowing an expansion of the age to bring a claim in Pennsylvania,  it is not retroactive, and only protects future victims. It is important for victims to come forward and know that they have a potential opportunity to utilize Rice, as valid, current case law, to bring their claims. We know that the average age of disclosure for child sex abuse victims is well after 40 years old, and the PA legislature needs to realize that, too.  We will not let the Catholic Church escape liability by hiding their actions, which were and likely still are, instrumental in the sexual abuse of children by clergy.

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