Judge Victim Waited Too Long to Sue Church
Mary Ryan Says She Turned down a $400,000 Settlement Offer Because She Wanted to Prove Diocesan Officials Knew about the Criminal Behavior of the Late Monsignor Louis Ward Dunn
August 28, 2003
Providence — A Superior Court judge has dismissed a case against leaders of the Diocese of Providence, saying a Burrillville woman who was raped by a priest waited too long to file her lawsuit.
In a 14-page decision, Judge Robert Krause wrote that Mary Ryan filed her 1995 lawsuit more than 10 years past what's allowable under law. Ryan represented herself in the case.
"All it was, was a statute-of-limitations issue. Our position was, the case in the court is legally time-barred," said James Murphy, a lawyer for the defendants. The decision was filed Tuesday and received by the defendants yesterday.
The defendants included the Most Rev. Robert Mulvee, bishop of the diocese; the Most. Rev. Louis Gelineau, former bishop; the Most Rev. Daniel Reilly; the Most Rev. Kenneth Angell; and St. Thomas Church.
Ryan, a mother of four, is the last of 38 alleged victims of sexual abuse in Rhode Island who did not join a $14.25-million settlement with the diocese last September. She turned down a $400,000 settlement offer from the diocese in March.
Ryan was 17 in 1978, when the late Monsignor Louis Ward Dunn began to sexually molest her, according to court documents. The sexual advances continued until she was 21 years old, ending on June 7, 1982. She had three years after that date to file her lawsuit.
Monsignor Dunn was convicted of first-degree sexual assault and given a 10-year suspended sentence in 1999, at the age of 79. The former pastor of St. Thomas Church in Providence died in 2001.
Ryan said when reached by telephone last night that she had not been notified of the decision. She declined an offer to be told how the judge ruled.
"This is a terrible way to hear about it," she said.
In court documents dated May 12, Ryan said she was pursuing the case because she wants to prove diocesan officials knew about Monsignor Dunn's criminal behavior.
Ryan had argued that her case met several exceptions that would exempt her from the statute-of-limitations law. Krause ruled against each argument.
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