March 19, 2005

Jury in priest abuse lawsuit faults church

Contra Costa Times

By Robin Evans

In a decision that could affect dozens of similar cases, the first jury to reach a verdict in California's nearly 850 clergy molestation lawsuits found Friday that there were enough signs of suspicious behavior by a San Jose pastor that church officials should have reported, investigated and stopped it.

The civil lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court was brought by 47-year-old Palo Alto resident Dennis Kavanaugh, who said he was abused as a boy by St. Martin of Tours Church pastor Joseph Pritchard from 1971 to 1973.

The jury reconvenes Monday to determine damages, a process Judge John Munter estimated would take a week. Other Pritchard cases are scheduled to follow.

But the verdict is likely to put pressure on the church to settle the other cases, said attorney Robert Tobin, who has three clients whose cases are next in line for trial.

The announcement of the verdict was met with elation by alleged victims of other priests who had sat through the four-day trial.

Posted by kshaw at March 19, 2005 06:58 AM