Sex-Abuse Liability Case Sent to State's Top Court
The Issue: Whether There's a Time Limit on Suing the Supervisors of the Abuser.

By Betty Adams
Portland Press Herald
August 6, 2008

AUGUSTA — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will be asked to rule on whether supervisors can be held liable for an unlimited period of time for sexual-abuse acts by individuals who work for them.

Two men are seeking money for alleged sexual abuse by priests, and their attorneys want the court to rule that the priests' supervisors can also be held accountable indefinitely.

Kennebec County Superior Court Justice Joseph Jabar decided Tuesday that he will forward the question to the supreme court, as requested by Gerald Petrucelli, an attorney representing the defendants.

The plaintiffs' attorney, Keith Varner, opposed going to the court for a ruling. Varner maintains that a law governing the filing of civil lawsuits -- which says "actions based upon sexual acts toward minors may be commenced at any time" -- applies to supervisors as well as alleged perpetrators.

Attorneys for the diocese and the individuals being sued say that supervisors cannot be held liable indefinitely, and that claims must be brought within statutory time limits.

The question arose in two lawsuits filed separately last year by William J. Picher of Augusta and Steven F. Boyden of Villa Ricci, Ga.

Picher claims the chancellor and co-chancellors of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland failed to protect him from sexual molestation by the Rev. Raymond Melville from 1986 to 1988, when Picher was a student at St. Mary's School in Augusta.

Boyden sued the Rev. Ronald Michaud of Augusta and the Portland diocese. Boyden claims Michaud sexually abused him in early 1985 when Michaud was stationed at St. Hyacinth's Parish in Westbrook. He says the bishop should have known Michaud was abusing minors and should have protected Boyden.


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