New California law brings new lawsuits against Sonoma church

Index Tribune

Dec. 30, 2019

By Anne Ward Ernst

Three separate childhood sex assault lawsuits filed last week against the Catholic Church by four men and two women include naming a former priest at St. Francis Solano Catholic Church in Sonoma as an abuser.

Now adults, all the accusers were children when they allege they were molested by priests. All but one accuser is choosing to remain anonymous. The one named accuser, Stan Sloan, alleges abuse in Napa County, where he lived.

A new California law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October which goes into effect Jan. 1 extends the statute of limitations for when a claim can be filed. Assembly Bill 218 gives adult survivors who realize they have suffered psychological injury or illness five years to sue from the time they discover their abuse, or the age of 40, whichever is later. The current law requires survivors to file suit by the age of 26, or within three years of recognizing their suffering caused by childhood sexual assault.

Fifteen states have expanded their “lookback” windows over the last couple of years. Sacramento attorney Joseph George, who filed the three new lawsuits and has represented several adults in similar cases, said churches may think they’ve already gone through the bulk of lawsuits against clergy starting in the 1980s.

“I think this will open up even more,” he said.

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