March 11, 2005

Judge rules against diocese in abuse case

San Francisco Chronicle

Don Lattin, Chronicle Religion Writer

Friday, March 11, 2005

Calling the Catholic Church's conduct "outrageous, oppressive and malicious," an East Bay judge ruled Thursday that two alleged sexual abuse victims may seek punitive damages against the Diocese of Oakland.

The tentative ruling by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Harry Sheppard was another setback for the church, which faces hundreds of other damage claims across the state.

This case and a lawsuit being heard in San Francisco are the first two trials stemming from a 2002 state law that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for molestation victims seeking damages against organizations that gave known child molesters access to more victims.

Sheppard presides over a case brought by two brothers, Bob and Tom Thatcher, who say the Diocese of Oakland allowed them to be molested by a known pedophile priest, the Rev. Robert Ponciroli.

At a morning hearing in Hayward, Sheppard said that Thatchers' attorneys can seek punitive damages from a jury that is scheduled to be selected early next week.

Posted by kshaw at March 11, 2005 06:33 AM