Deadline Looms for Molestation Lawsuits

By Michelle Durand
San Mateo Daily Journal [California]
Downloaded December 30, 2003

With tomorrow’s deadline looming for Californians to file a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic church for old molestation charges, the lawyers at the center of the statewide campaign are feeling the push.

“We’ve tried figuring out how many but it’s impossible to say. We believe statewide it will be in the neighborhood of 700 victims and of that our consortium will be about two-thirds,” said Stockton-based attorney Laurence Drivon.

Of those, about 100 cases are in the Bay Area and target the archdiocese of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. Drivon expects the financial outcome to be in the millions. But he has little sympathy for the church’s pockets.

“The church has it coming,” he said.

The Archdiocese of Boston is paying $85 million in settlements and California attorneys, including Drivon, said their lawsuits could draw an even larger amount.

The attorneys involved are trying to file all the lawsuits before Wednesday’s deadline hits. Jan. 1 closes the curtain on the one-year repeal of the statute of limitations for molestation cases and Drivon said his firm and others are keeping busy.

Drivon expects his cases to be a mixed bag of settlements and lawsuits that follow through with a trial.

“I think we’ve already seen examples of that,” he said.

Two lawsuits in the East Bay and one in San Francisco have already been settled with the church this year for $1 million each.

Drivon could not recall any of the allegations specifically targeting priests in San Mateo County, but any financial hit to the church as a whole could be felt by residents.

Among those targeted is San Jose priest Joseph Pritchard. Twenty men and one woman have accused Pritchard of molesting them in the late 1970s while he working at St. Martins of Tours. The suits are filed against the Diocese of San Jose and the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Pritchard, who died in 1988, also taught at Serra High School in San Mateo during the 1950s. One of his accusers is his nephew who claims he was abused in 1959. The nephew said his mother alerted both the church and Serra officials about the alleged molestation.

A former priest at a Belmont church may have garnered the most publicity in San Mateo County for molestation allegations although no charges were ever levied.

Father Daniel Carter, 52, attracted protesters and supporters in April when he returned to the pulpit of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church after an eight-month administrative leave. The Archdiocese of San Francisco re-instated Carter after officials found the charges against him inconclusive. A woman accused Carter of fondling her when she was eight in the late 1970s.

Another Immaculate Heart priest is also facing criminal molestation charges although it is unknown whether his victim has filed a civil lawsuit. Jose Superiaso, 49, faces 25 counts for reportedly molesting a girl between July 1994 and November 1995 while serving at St. Andrew’s Church in Daly City. Prior to that, he served at the Belmont church and Our Lady of the Pillar Church in Half Moon Bay. He was arrested this year after his alleged victim, now 20, lured him back to the Bay Area under the guise of continuing the relationship.

Michelle Durand can be reached by e-mail: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 104. What do you think of this story? Send a letter to the editor:


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