Independent [Dublin, Ireland]
September 16, 2022
By Aodhan O'Faolain
A man who claimed he was sexually abused by a Catholic Priest almost 50 years ago has settled his High Court damages action for €350,000.
In his judgement on Friday Mr Justice Garrett Simons approved the settlement of the now 60-year-old man personal injuries claim, who currently resides in the UK, against The Sacred Heart Missionary Education Trust and his alleged abuser.
The case was settled by the Trust, without an admission of liability by either of the defendants.
The man claimed that he was sexually abused by a priest who taught at a secondary school operated by the Trust.
The alleged abuse was said to have occurred during the mid 1970’s when the complainant was a pupil at the school and aged in his teens.
As a result of the alleged abuse the man had sued the defendants’ seeking damages for the personal injuries, he claims he suffered.
The claims were denied, and the action had been opposed on grounds including that the claim against the defendants was statue barred.
The Trust also argued that it was not vicariously liable for any actions alleged committed by the priest.
The Trust had further claimed that the fact the man had been sexually abused by other persons not associated with the school had also to be taken into account.
It argued that these abusers were “concurrent wrongdoers” and that is failure to pursue them had legal consequences.
Due to a medical condition which causes the man to struggle with his memory and attention, he cannot be identified for legal reasons.
In his decision the judge said that settlement had come before him because the man lacks the capacity to provide instructions in respect of his claim or manage his own affairs.
The man is currently detained at a mental health facility in England, and the subject of various orders made by the English courts, the judge noted.
As a result of his medical condition, which became problematic after he launched his personal injury action, his proceedings were amended and were eventually brought on his behalf by his ‘next friend’ which in this case was his sister.
In approving the settlement Mr Justice Simons said that had the case gone to trial there was “a strong likelihood” the action would have been dismissed.
The Judge said that it appeared that the claim was statute barred, and because of the plaintiff’s mental health he was not competent to provide sworn evidence in the proceedings.
Given the circumstances the settlement was an excellent one from the plaintiff’s perspective, the judge said, adding that there was no realistic prospect of the man getting a larger sum that what has been offered had the case gone to trial.
The settlement, the judge directed, is to be paid to the English local authority charged with managing the man’s affairs.