$3.6 Million Verdict in Vt. Priest Trial

By Kevin O’Connor

December 17, 2008

BURLINGTON - A jury ruled Wednesday that Vermont’s Catholic Church should pay $3.6 million for negligence in hiring and supervising a pedophile priest.

A panel of five men and seven women deliberated for almost 13 hours over two days before finding the statewide Roman Catholic Diocese liable in a Chittenden Superior Court lawsuit regarding the former Rev. Edward Paquette, who worked in Rutland in 1972, Montpelier in 1974 and Burlington in 1976.

The jury awarded David Navari, a 43-year-old Burlington native, $192,500 in compensatory damages and $3.4 million in punitive damages for civil claims that the diocese failed to protect him from Paquette. In his lawsuit, Navari said the priest fondled him on two occasions in 1977 when he was an 11-year-old altar boy at Burlington’s Christ the King Church.

The verdict - announced at 2:50 p.m. - capped the third trial of the year involving the state’s largest religious denomination and the same retired clergyman.

In the first trial in May, a jury awarded plaintiff Perry Babel, a 40-year-old Burlington native, a record $8.7 million in compensatory and punitive damages for claims that Paquette fondled him 40 to 100 times.

In a second trial in August, another jury deliberated for three days before saying it couldn’t agree on a verdict in a similar lawsuit brought by 41-year-old Burlington native Thomas Murray, who alleged the priest sexually abused him 20 to 50 times. The judge in that case declared a mistrial.

Read more in Thursday’s Rutland Herald and Times Argus.


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