New law opens door for priest abuse lawsuits

Rutland Herald

Aug 27, 2019

By Gordon Dritschilo

Law in effect since July 1

As the Diocese of Burlington compiled its report on priest sex abuse cases, the state was moving to give more of the victims a path to hold the priests and church accountable.

This year, the Legislature passed and Gov. Phil Scott signed, a bill eliminating the statute of limitations on civil actions dealing with childhood sexual abuse. The new law took effect July 1, and a Burlington attorney who has represented several victims in successful actions against the church says he has filed five new lawsuits that were barred under the previous statute of limitations, possibly with more to come.

“There are a number of people whose claims had been barred by the statute of limitations who now feel they can come forward,” said Jerome O’Neill, who has represented more than 50 survivors of priest sexual abuse, winning them a combined total of more than $30 million. “We look at each case carefully.”

O’Neill said the five were filed on the day the new law took effect. While the alleged incidents took place all over Vermont, the cases were filed in Chittenden County civil court. He said they remain under seal until the diocese files a response or a motion to dismiss is denied.

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