May 04, 2005

Diocese wants suit on abuse dismissed



An amendment to the Virginia Constitution that extended the time for filing a sexual-abuse lawsuit was aimed at individual abusers and not at their employers, an attorney for the Catholic Diocese of Richmond argued yesterday.

Lawyer Leslie A. Winneberger contended that the constitution and related state law requires the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Stephen Kopalchick, a 52-year-old Chester man who has alleged that two priests abused him 40 years ago.

Not so, responded Kopalchick's attorney, Edward L. Weiner. Though the amendment to the constitution in 1994 used the term "natural person," that language did not change the general rule that the word "person" includes corporations, businesses and entities such as the diocese, Weiner told Richmond Circuit Judge Randall G. Johnson.

Johnson said he would review the oral and written arguments provided by the attorneys and issue a ruling within three weeks. Trial of the lawsuit is set for Sept. 12.

The suit alleges that the diocese knew that the priests Kopalchick contends abused him, Thomas M. Summers and Andrew Roy, were pedophiles. Summers and Roy abused him at St. James Catholic Church and elementary school in Hopewell, the suit alleges. The school closed in 1992.

Posted by kshaw at May 4, 2005 07:59 AM