CA Court Mulls Window for Old Clergy Abuse Claims

ABC News

By LISA LEFF Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO January 6, 2012 (AP)

Six brothers who say they were sexually abused by a priest decades ago asked the California Supreme Court on Thursday to let them sue the Catholic diocese that allegedly knew the priest molested children. If justices side with them, the state could see a rash of new clergy abuse lawsuits by long-ago victims against the Catholic Church and others.

At issue in the case are two competing provisions of state law: one that allows adults who only recently connected their psychological problems to what happened to them as children to seek damages against so-called third-party defendants and another that said they could do so only if they were below a certain age.

The brothers, now in their 40s and 50s, allege they were molested by an Oakland priest during the 1970s but didn’t link it to their ongoing distress until 2006. The priest, Donald Broderson, was forced to retire amid abuse allegations in 1993 and died in 2010.

Although legal time limits generally prevent plaintiffs from bringing civil complaints based on long-ago events, the California Legislature has expanded the statute of limitations for child abuse lawsuits several times during the last 25 years to make it easier for victims of childhood abuse to pursue their claims.

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