Verdicts & Settlements
North Carolina Lawyers Weekly
The plaintiff first contacted plaintiff's counsel in February 2008, and the attorney immediately reported the matter to local law enforcement, instead of the Charlotte Diocese. The police arranged for the tape recording of a call from the plaintiff to the priest, named Father Robert Yurgel, who was then serving as a hospital chaplain in New Jersey.
Yurgel made incriminating statements during this conversation and he was subsequently indicted on multiple felony and misdemeanor charges. He eventually plead guilty in February 2009 to one felony arising out of his sexual molestation of the plaintiff in the rectory of Our Lady of Consolation church in Charlotte and received a sentence ranging up to 10 years of incarceration by the N.C. Department of Correction.
Suit was filed against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, Father Robert Yurgel and the Order to which the priest belonged seeking both compensatory and punitive damages.
Almost immediately after Yurgel's arrest was reported by the media, a former parishioner of St. Matthew, the church where the plaintiff and his family had been parishioners, called the plaintiff's counsel to report that Yurgel allegedly had engaged in homosexual contact with her husband. Yurgel had married them into the Catholic Church and then developed a very close friendship with their family.
On a trip to a Knights of Columbus function, Yurgel allegedly initiated homosexual contact with her husband, a fellow parishioner, according to a report from the plaintiff's counsel. Her therapist at Catholic Social Services had been so upset when she learned of what happened that she arranged a meeting with the chancellor of the diocese.
Although Yurgel's alleged conduct violated the diocese's sexual misconduct policy, the diocese did not follow that policy that called for immediate suspension, according to the report. Instead they continued to allow Yurgel to serve at St. Matthew and to be a leader of the youth group.
It was about this time that he began molesting the plaintiff. When this parishioner called the plaintiff's counsel she was able to identify the plaintiff, even though his name had not appeared in any media reports. She had seen Yurgel spending time with the plaintiff and knew that he had befriended the plaintiff's family after he was done spending time with her own family.
The plaintiff focused on the fact that Yurgel had violated the sexual misconduct policies of the diocese when he allegedly engaged in homosexual activity with the parishioner. The plaintiff argued that this put the diocese on notice that Yurgel had a problem with boundaries and that he was unfit to continue to run the Youth Ministry program at St. Matthew.
The plaintiff survived motions to dismiss based on the statute of limitations on his claims of fraudulent concealment, breach of fiduciary duty and civil conspiracy. After extensive discovery, which included 25 depositions and the production of over 40,000 pages of documents, the plaintiff settled with the Charlotte Diocese for $1 million, plus the payment of therapy and related medications for five years.
The plaintiff devoted much of his efforts in discovery with the diocese in an effort to prove a pattern and practice with regard to how they handled priests who had been accused of sexual misconduct with children.
Subsequently, a payment in the amount of $230,000 was made on behalf of the defendant Order to plaintiff in order to resolve certain disputed and contested claims that survived the Order's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's claims. The amount of the payment was based upon the Order's determination that it would incur, as attorney fees and expenses, an amount approximating the payment, regardless of whether the plaintiff or the Order ultimately prevailed at trial.
Injuries alleged: Severe and sometimes incapacitating post-traumatic stress disorder as a direct consequence of the victimization he experienced at the hands of Fr. Robert Yurgel's sexual abuse, improper touching, emotional coercion and duress, undue influence, discomfort, unwelcome and intrusive physical contact; severe and prolonged emotional distress; profound loss of faith; physical injury; and physical and emotional pain and suffering.
Case name: William Robert Price v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, N.C., et al.
Case number: 08-CVS-23161
Court: Mecklenburg County Superior Court
Mediator: Gary Hemric
Verdict or settlement: Settlement
Date: Last dismissals filed June 10, 2010
Amount: $1.23 million total. Defendant Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte: $1 million. Defendant Order: A payment in the amount of $230,000 was made on behalf of the Order to the plaintiff in order to resolve certain disputed and contested claims that survived the Order's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's claims. The amount of the payment was based upon the Order's determination that it would incur, as attorney fees and expenses, an amount approximating the payment, regardless of whether the plaintiff or the Order ultimately prevailed at trial.
Insurer: Liability carrier for Charlotte Diocese for its settlement funds
Experts: Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., J.C.D., C.A.D.C., an ordained priest who has studied and investigated sexual abuse by priests in the Roman Catholic Church for nearly 20 years and also is an addiction therapist with expertise in providing therapy to, among others, sexual addicts (Washington, D.C.); Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea, Ph.D., a psychoanalyst and clinical psychologist whose specialty is in treating adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, including clergy abuse survivors (Matthews); Faye E. Sultan, Ph.D., a forensic psychologist with expertise regarding diagnosis and treatment of traumatic injuries, including those suffered by victims of sexual abuse (Charlotte); and Anne Wolbert Burgess, a psychiatric nurse who has treated victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse, and studies sexual offenders and predators (Boston)
Plaintiff's attorneys: Seth H. Langson of Karro, Sellers & Langson (Charlotte) and James P. Cooney III of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice (Charlotte)
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