March 10, 2005

Oakland diocese could face punitive damages payout, judge rules

Contra Costa Times

By Ivan Delventhal

HAYWARD - In a tentative ruling issued today, an Alameda County Superior Court judge opened the door to a potential punitive damage award in a recently begun clergy sex abuse case.

The ruling came in connection with a lawsuit filed by Robert Thatcher, who along with his brother Tom sued the Diocese of Oakland over abuse they suffered at the hands of defrocked priest Robert Ponciroli.

"As alleged, the conduct of the church is outrageous, oppressive and malicious," Judge Harry Sheppard said in explaining his tentative ruling. "And it was done with a conscious disregard for the persons they were entrusted to protect, being children."

The tentative ruling, if it becomes final, is significant because punitive damages could dramatically increase the monetary award in the case.

Ponciroli served at St. Ignatius Parish in Antioch from 1980 until 1983. The Thatcher brothers served as altar boys at St. Ignatius from 1979 to 1981.

Posted by kshaw at March 10, 2005 05:46 PM