January 23, 2005

Ruling rejects abuse defense

Commercial Appeal

By Bill Dries
January 23, 2005

A Tennessee Supreme Court ruling last week has eliminated one of several defenses the Catholic Diocese of Memphis might use in two child sexual abuse lawsuits filed against two priests and the church last summer.

But attorneys for the alleged abuse victims say the civil lawsuits still will be a hard fight.

The high court's ruling on Tuesday in an abuse lawsuit involving former Nashville priest Edward McKeown and the Diocese of Nashville focused on claims of "emotional distress."

McKeown already has been convicted on a criminal charge of sexually abusing one of the two boys who later filed the civil suit against McKeown and the church.

Nashville church officials argued they weren't liable on the distress charge because they didn't know the alleged victims and because the abuse didn't take place in the presence of church officials.

In a unanimous ruling setting a new legal standard, the Supreme Court rejected that defense and ordered the case back on the court calendar after it had been dismissed by two lower courts.

Posted by kshaw at January 23, 2005 03:42 AM