Alleged Abuse Victim, Diocese Reach Settlement
By Mark Guydish
Times Leader [Scranton PA]
January 5, 2007
Scranton – The lawsuit from David Irvin alleging sexual abuse by a now-deceased Diocese of Scranton priest began with a press conference on the courthouse steps – complete with enlarged photo of a young Irvin in his altar boy outfit – and a legal twist designed to avoid the statute of limitations.
It ended with a quiet settlement and no public notice beyond the court records. Terms of the settlement haven't been disclosed.
In December 2005, Irvin's Florida attorney, Joseph Saunders, held a press conference announcing the filing of the suit, which claimed Irvin, now in his 40s, was abused at the age of 6 in Larksville by the late Rev. Robert Caparelli. By the time the suit was filed, Irvin had served 20 years in the military and moved to Kentucky, while Caparelli had been convicted on multiple counts of sexual abuse of minors and died in prison in 1994.
Standing on the federal courthouse steps in Scranton, Saunders blamed the alleged abuse on the diocese, claiming there had been a deliberate pattern of fraud, secrecy and obstruction of justice.
Central to the case – and the part that made it unusual – was Saunders' argument that the state's statute of limitations, which typically restricts legal action after a set number of years depending on the crime, did not apply because Irvin was in the Navy for 20 years and thus fell under what used to be called the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act. That law allows members of the military to delay such legal action because it could affect their military service.
The diocese argued the statute of limitations still applied. Saunders said Thursday that a Dec. 18 hearing had been scheduled on the dispute, but the two sides arrived at a settlement about a week before that.
Judge James Munley of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, dismissed the case Dec. 11, giving both sides 60 days to finalize the agreement.
While the case didn't go on long enough to settle the statute of limitations legal debate, Saunders said it helped highlight one inequity in the law: The legal rights gained by those who join the service but denied to others. "It is unfortunate when an abuse survivor who happens to be a member of the military is in a different class than other people," he said.
Saunders said both sides "were able to come to a mutual agreement of what Mr. Irvin needed for future healing and what the bishop was willing to do," Saunders said. "Years of litigation are usually not pleasant for anybody. We lawyers may like it sometimes, but for the bishop or the survivor it's not a pleasant prospect."
Saunders said there was no confidentiality agreement regarding terms of the settlement, but that Irvin did not want the amount revealed. The suit had asked for damages in excess of $75,000, but Saunders said that was the amount necessary to bring the case into a federal court.
Under Bishop Joseph Martino, the diocese has stuck tightly to a policy of not commenting on legal cases beyond official press releases or announcements in the diocese newspaper, The Catholic Light. Diocese Spokesman Bill Genello did not respond to an e-mail Thursday asking about the Irvin settlement.
Mark Guydish, a Times Leader staff writer, can be reached at 829-7161 or email@example.com.
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