Deluca Held Liable; Parish in Question

By Sean O'Sullivan
News Journal
November 16, 2010

In what was largely seen as a foregone conclusion, the judge overseeing his child-abuse lawsuit granted a motion by the attorneys for plaintiff John Vai on Monday that essentially found defrocked priest Francis DeLuca liable for damages, leaving a jury to decide the amount owed Vai.

The Superior Court ruling does not affect the extent of liability by DeLuca's employer from 1966 to 1969, St. Elizabeth Roman Catholic Parish.

Before the suit went to trial, DeLuca admitted in a videotaped deposition to sexually abusing Vai as a child. And just before the trial began, DeLuca's attorney resigned from the case, citing DeLuca's inability to pay his legal bills. DeLuca, 81, who is now living in Syracuse, N.Y., has not attended any part of the trial and no one appeared on his behalf to offer a defense. DeLuca's former attorney told the court DeLuca is suffering from poor health and depression related to his legal woes.

Vai's legal team rested its case on Monday and attorneys for St. Elizabeth's were expected to begin their defense, but court was adjourned for the day after President Judge James T. Vaughn Jr. learned that his mother had died.

It was not immediately clear when testimony would resume. Attorneys had expected closing arguments later this week.

In opening arguments, attorneys for St. Elizabeth's claimed that the parish was not legally liable for the acts of DeLuca, in part because DeLuca was secretive about the sexual abuse he was committing. Vai's attorneys have argued that even in the late 1960s it was clear DeLuca was a danger and Vai testified that at least one priest saw him at the rectory during a visit to DeLuca.

Vai filed suit against DeLuca and St. Elizabeth's under Delaware's Child Victims Act of 2007, which briefly suspended the statute of limitations on civil suits to allow people who had been sexually abused as children to bring civil claims for damages.

This story contains information from the Associated Press. Contact Sean O'Sullivan at 324-2777 or

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