|Lake Worth Man's Lawsuit over Priest Abuse Settled
By Susan Spencer-Wendel
Palm Beach Post
April 9, 2009
WEST PALM BEACH — A civil lawsuit posed to lay bare the Catholic Church's handling of sexual abuse claims against priests has been settled on the cusp of trial.
Kevin Sidaway's 2002 claim against the Archdiocese of Miami, set for trial April 22, has been resolved for a confidential amount of money, two attorneys for the Lake Worth man confirmed Thursday.
West Palm Beach litigator Jack Scarola said he was not surprised, but was disappointed that there would be no public airing of Sidaway's experience.
Sidaway settled a sex-abuse claim with the Archdiocese of Miami in 1998 for $900,000, then sued the church again in 2002, saying the reforms he pressed for had not been executed and that he was fraudulently induced to accept a lower amount.
"I believe there are some very, very significant lessons that rest in the facts of this case," Scarola said Thursday. "I am not surprised that the church hierarchy recognized the fact this would be an extremely dangerous case for them to allow to go to trial."
An attorney for the archdiocese, C. Brooks Ricca Jr., did not return a call seeking comment, nor did archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta.
Sidaway, 53, also did not return a call.
Sidaway has previously talked publicly of his sexual abuse at the hands of a priest from his Boynton Beach parish when he was 11 years old. On a trip with the Rev. Rocco D'Angelo, a family friend, Sidaway was repeatedly sodomized, Scarola said.
When Sidaway discovered that D'Angelo, who is now deceased, was still a priest in St. Petersburg in the '90s and victimizing others, Sidaway unsuccessfully sought criminal charges against him and then sued.
The upcoming trial in West Palm Beach was scheduled for three weeks and appeared to be a potential bruiser for the church, with Archbishop John Favalora himself subpoenaed to testify, as well as various church officials who brokered Sidaway's settlement with the church in 1998.
Also set to appear were lawyers who have settled priest sex-abuse claims to testify as to the true value of Sidaway's old claim, Scarola said.
The lawsuit sought the difference in what was paid to Sidaway in 1998 and what the full value was, as well as punitive damages for what Scarola characterized as "intentional misconduct" by the church. Sidaway sought $3 million in 1998.
Scarola said that when Favalora was deposed in another lawsuit and was questioned about reforms undertaken after Sidaway's claim, Favalora said he had not heard of Kevin Sidaway.
Shelley Stevens, who represented Sidaway during the 1998 negotiations, said Thursday that the new settlement "allows Kevin Sidaway to receive the compensation he was entitled to, which he traded off hoping to change the ways of the archdiocese and to protect some other children."
Stevens said the most significant reform promised, which had not occurred when Sidaway sued, was the manner in which the archdiocese locates abuser priests and the promise that they would be dealt with externally rather than internally.
"A method which would not allow them to ... continue to hide them," she said.
Sidaway noticed when reforms called for at a national bishop's conference, made part of church policy in 2003, did not go as far as he had requested, Stevens said.
"They would have made a significant difference in saving some kids from the heartaches they went through," Stevens said.
"That trial would have permitted a look inside the archdiocese as to how they handled these cases and would have actually demonstrated ... they are more committed to saving their own."
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