R.I. Supreme Court denies damages for 2 who claimed they were abused by priest

By Karen Lee Ziner
Providence Journal
June 22, 2016

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Rhode Island Supreme Court has upheld a Superior Court decision denying damages to two plaintiffs who alleged they were sexually abused more than four decades ago by a Roman Catholic priest.

The court affirmed Superior Court Judge Netti C. Vogel's ruling that the statute of limitations had elapsed, and that the plaintiffs did not meet the threshold for "unsound mind disability."

Helen L. (McGonigle) Hyde and Jeffrey Thomas had separately sued The Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence in 2008, alleging they were molested by the late Rev. Brendan Smyth, who served as visiting priest, counselor and teacher at Our Lady of Mercy School and Church in East Greenwich for three years. Theirs were cases of recovered memory: both were between 6 and 9 years old at the time of the alleged abuse.

Smyth became notorious after he was convicted of 141 indecent assaults against children across his native Ireland over four decades. He died in 1997 in prison in Ireland.

Hyde, an attorney from Connecticut, and Thomas, a Massachusetts resident, argued in their appeal that Vogel erred when she decided that the statute of limitations barred their claims. They also argued that Vogel unfairly denied their request to seek discovery "on the alternate tolling theory that the defendant fraudulently concealed their causes of action from them."


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