$50m Clerical Abuse Lawsuit Is Rejected by Judge

By Dolores Orman
Democrat and Chronicle [Rochester NY]
Downloaded May 9, 2003

(May 9, 2003) - Saying that the statute of limitations had expired, a judge has thrown out a $50 million lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester and others stemming from allegations of abuse of an altar boy by a former Spencerport priest.

The lawyer for the plaintiff said he would appeal.

Other defendants were Bishop Matthew Clark, St. John the Evangelist Church of Spencerport and the Holy See, or Vatican.

The suit alleges abuse by the Rev. Albert H. Cason in 1967 in the Spencerport parish. The plaintiff, now in his 40s, was 12.

Ronald R. Benjamin of Binghamton, attorney for the man, argued in state Supreme Court on Thursday that church officials had a responsibility and obligation from 1968 to the present "to say we knew we had a deviate priest" and that they breached that duty by allowing Cason to come into contact with altar boys.

Benjamin also argued that his client experienced substantial, ongoing "religious" duress, such as fear of damnation or ostracism, from the time of the assault to the time the lawsuit was filed in December 2002.

However, diocesan attorney Paul J. Yesawich III urged state Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Frazee to dismiss the lawsuit.

"The statute of limitations (ended) in May 1976," he said. "By any stretch of the imagination it has expired."

Under law, the plaintiff had three years to file a lawsuit once he turned 18.

Yesawich also argued that the court papers were "barren" of any evidence supporting the claims of fiduciary responsibility by Catholic officials or the plaintiff's duress.

Frazee agreed and granted his dismissal motion after the oral arguments ended.

Benjamin, who also is representing other former altar boys allegedly abused by Cason, said outside court that he would appeal to the Appellate Division.

After serving in Spencerport, Cason was a co-pastor at St. Patrick Church in Owego, Tioga County.

Diocesan officials said he was removed from his ministry in 1985 for sexual misconduct. No criminal charges were filed.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.