Ruling on Statute of Limitations on Clergy Sexual Abuse Cases Hits KC

By Tim Townsend
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
September 27, 2007

The diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph agreed Tuesday to pay $225,000 to a former altar boy who said he was sexually abused by a priest in the 1970s. The settlement came days after a Kansas City judge declined to dismiss the lawsuit and less than a week before it was scheduled to go to trial.

The case represents the first time on the west side of the state that a 2006 Missouri Supreme Court ruling that altered the state's statute of limitations was successfully harnessed in an effort to send a clergy sexual abuse lawsuit to a jury.

The St. Louis Archdiocese faced the same situation in July after St. Louis County Circuit Judge Barbara Wallace ruled that a jury should decide the outcome of a similar suit. The archdiocese eventually settled with the plaintiff for $300,000, substantially more than its initial offer.

The state Supreme Court ruling, Powel v. Chaminade, added new wording to how the statute of limitations can be applied, essentially allowing a court to consider when a plaintiff

not only recalled the alleged abuse, but recognized the harm it inflicted.

Attorneys for people alleging they were victims of clergy sexual abuse say the ruling provides new hope for dozens of Missourians who previously had little chance of suing the church in court.

Church lawyers disagree. They say once the courts have had a chance to grapple with the Powel ruling, the statute of limitations in Missouri will remain relatively unchanged.

Before the ruling, state courts had imposed a more rigid view of the statute of limitations that required filing claims of childhood sexual abuse within five years of turning 21, or by age 31, depending on the law in effect at the time of the alleged abuse.

In the Kansas City case, Jackson County Circuit Judge John R. O'Malley denied the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph summary judgment Friday, after hearing arguments based on the Powel ruling. His decision allowed the lawsuit to proceed to a jury verdict.

Francis Scheuring said he was 11 and an altar boy at St. Mary in Independence when the Rev. Francis McGlynn, now 80, began to sexually abuse him. He said the abuse lasted for three years. McGlynn, who agreed to pay Scheuring an additional $2,000 in the settlement, retired from diocesan ministry in 1992, according to the diocese.

In a statement, the diocese said Wednesday that it had "agreed to end the dispute with the hope that true healing can begin." Jonathan Haden, an attorney for the diocese, could not be reached for comment.

Scheuring's attorney, Rebecca Randles, said her firm has 14 more cases representing 41 plaintiffs waiting to use the Powel ruling to argue for their access to juries. | 314-340-8221


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