Wisconsin Justices Reject Priest Abuse Lawsuit

By Chris Rizo
Legal Newsline

July 16, 2008

MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline)- Five men who were abused by a Catholic school teacher cannot sue the Roman Catholic Church, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled.

The men, abused in Kentucky, sued the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the Archdiocese of Madison, claiming they covered up the teacher's abuse of dozens of children in the 1960s while he taught at Catholic schools in Madison and Milwaukee.

The five men were among the 243 plaintiffs compensated under a $25.7 million church abuse settlement with the Archdiocese of Louisville.

The men were all under age 15 when they were sexually abused between 1968 and 1973 by Gary Kazmarek, a Catholic school teacher in Louisville. Kazmarek is serving a 13-year prison sentence in Kentucky for the abuse.

After the $25.7 million settlement, the men filed the lawsuit claiming the dioceses were negligent in failing to warn officials and employers that Kazmarek was known for sexually abusing children.

The lawsuit claimed that church officials told Kazmarek to "leave Milwaukee quietly," but Kazmarek went on to teach at a Catholic school in Madison, where he abused up to ten children before moving to Kentucky, court papers say.

A divided state Supreme Court upheld an appeals court ruling the lawsuit was flawed because the three-year statute of limitations for negligence claims started after the last assault, which was more than 4 decades ago.

"The plaintiffs also fail to provide legal authority supporting their arguments. They argue that the duty of ordinary care in this case encompasses a specific obligation to warn all parochial schools and dioceses in this country, as well as future parents of unforeseeable victims, but have cited no cases in which the failure to warn third parties has been described in such sweeping terms," the court ruled.

The men argued unsuccessfully that they did not learn of the alleged cover-up until 2002, so the statute of limitations should not apply.

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