Court to Review Davenport Priest Abuse Cases
The decision won't stop another lawsuit from going to trial Monday, however

By Shirley Ragsdale
Des Moines Register
October 27, 2004

The Iowa Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear appeals in two priest abuse lawsuits against the Davenport Catholic Diocese.

However, the high court's decision won't stop another lawsuit from going to trial Monday, lawyers said.

Attorneys for both sides said they will continue to try to settle all 38 of the lawsuits or claims submitted for mediation.

A lawyer for the diocese has said diocese officials will not let the first case go to trial Monday.

If the cases cannot be settled, diocese officials have said they will file a bankruptcy petition to reorganize the diocese's finances in order to equitably settle with all the plaintiffs.

The Supreme Court will review a July 15 decision by District Court Judge C.H. Pelton rejecting the diocese's motion to dismiss four lawsuits.

The diocese had argued that the statute of limitations had expired in the cases because the men waited decades after the abuse allegedly occurred before going to court.

The plaintiffs claim that fraudulent concealment by the diocese or mental illness prevented them from filing sooner. Pelton ruled the matter should be decided by a jury.

The high court agreed to review the motions in lawsuits filed by James Wells and John Doe III, but rejected appeals in the other two cases.

"I have no idea why the Supreme Court chose to review the cases they did," said Craig Levien, a Davenport attorney who represents a majority of the plaintiffs suing the diocese.

"The John Doe III and James Wells cases were two of (our) stronger cases in terms of fighting the statute of limitations issue."

Rand Wonio, attorney for the diocese, was equally puzzled by the high court's decision to examine just two cases.

"The only distinction that I can see is Wells and Doe III sent letters to the diocese" about their abuse several years before they sued, Wonio said.


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