Alleged Priest Abuse Case to Go Forward

Central Valley Business Business Times
May 22, 2008

• Appeals court says the case is not barred by statute of limitations

• Involves accusations against Central Valley priest

Because there is a triable issue over whether or not Catholic Church officials knew a Central Valley priest might pose a risk of child molestation, a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Bishop of Fresno can go ahead, the California Second District Court of Appeal says.

While the case involves accusations of sexual misconduct, the court's ruling could apply to all types of employers.

Brothers George and Howard Santillan allege that from 1959 through 1973, they were the victims of childhood sexual abuse by Monsignor Anthony Herdegen, the priest at their hometown Catholic parish in Wasco.

The brothers sued the diocese in 2003 under the one-year revival provision for previously time-barred claims against entities such as the diocese that allegedly failed to protect children from an employee's unlawful sexual conduct when they had notice of such behavior.

The church argued, and the trial court agreed, that it never had the required notice of problems involving the priest and the boys.

But the appellate court notes that the priest's housekeeper apparently knew of the misconduct, although she did not speak of it before her death.

"So long as the agent was under a duty to disclose certain information, the principal is bound by the agent's knowledge of that information whether or not the agent communicated it to the principal," the ruling says.


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