Pa. court ruling opens possible path for old church sex-abuse claims |

Pa. court ruling opens possible path for old church sex-abuse claims

Deb Erdley

A year to the day after a statewide grand jury report disclosed seven decades of sexual abuse allegations against 301 Catholic priests, the Pennsylvania Superior Court Wednesday cleared what may be a path for some old claims to go to a jury.

An order issued Wednesday by the court upheld a prior opinion by a three judge panel that overturned a Blair County judge’s decision to dismiss a clergy sexual abuse claim. The claim against the Altoona-Johnstown fell outside the statute of limitations that bars lawsuits filed after an abuse survivor’s 30th birthday.

But unlike hundreds of other lawsuits for old claims that charged the church with negligence for sexual abuse, Renee A. Rice’s suit charged the church with conspiring to conceal acts that it had a duty to report.

Wednesday, the entire Superior Court upheld that finding.

“As it is now, this is the new law in Pennsylvania,” said Pittsburgh lawyer, Alan Perer who argued Rice’s appeal.

Spokesmen for the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.

Altoona lawyer Richard Serbin who argued Rice’s original case echoed Perer.

The Superior Court ruling comes as seven dioceses across the state wrap up awards from compensation funds established after the grand jury report. Church leaders said the funds that have awarded millions of dollars to survivors are an effort to recognize their pain.

Those who accepted such awards, however, have been required to sign away any rights to sue the church should the law opened up a path for civil action.

Perer said his firm submitted 87 applications to the Pittsburgh Diocese Compensation Fund, but has received notifications on only three of them.

“Two were rejected and one was accepted. A lot of these people will now have an opportunity to take their claims to court. This is going to give hundreds of victims who have been denied justice access to the courts,” Perer predicted.

Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: News | Pennsylvania | Top Stories
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.