|Priest Abuse Lawsuit Rejected
Ohio High Court Rules Case Was Filed Too Late
By Dan Horn
January 17, 2008
The Ohio Supreme Court threw out a lawsuit Wednesday that claimed a Norwood priest impregnated a young woman and then pressured her to give the baby up for adoption.
The court's decision resolved the last of several dozen lawsuits filed since 2002 that had accused priests of abusing children in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
As in the previous cases, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the alleged victim had waited too long to file her lawsuit.
The woman, who has not been identified, accused the Rev. Norman Heil of having sex with her several times in 1965 when she was a 16-year-old student at Regina High School in Norwood.
She claimed the priest and a nun told her the church would cast her out and her child would not be baptized if she kept her baby.
The woman's lawyer, Marc Mezibov, acknowledged the lawsuit was filed well beyond the deadline set by the statute of limitations.
But he said the priest and the nun, acting on behalf of the archdiocese, are to blame for the delay.
If they had not threatened her, he said, she might have turned to the courts years earlier.
"She was prevented because of the threats and inducements of the archdiocese," Mezibov said.
The Supreme Court, however, rejected that argument and upheld a lower-court ruling that threw out the lawsuit.
The justices, in a unanimous decision, said nothing the priest and nun are accused of doing prevented the woman from filing her lawsuit sooner.
They said allowing the lawsuit to proceed to trial would be improper and unfair because so much time had passed.
Records of the child's birth are now 43 years old, Heil died 20 years ago and the nun died in the 1960s.
"The archdiocese would be unfairly prejudiced in its ability to defend itself," the justices wrote in their decision.
Archdiocese lawyer Mark VanderLaan said the statute of limitations exists to ensure cases are brought to trial in a reasonable amount of time. He said it makes sense that the case decided Wednesday - and the dozens of other lawsuits filed since 2002 - are not permitted to go to trial.
"Statutes of limitations are there for good reasons," VanderLaan said. "This one would be a textbook example of that."
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