Pa. Supreme Court Sets Hearing in Clergy Abuse Case

By Peter Smith
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
October 13, 2020

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on Oct. 20 on the appeal from a Roman Catholic diocese in a case that could allow plaintiffs to sue over sexual abuse by priests in cases that otherwise would be barred by the statute of limitations.

The court will hear the case of Renee Rice of Altoona, who sued the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown alleging sexual abuse by one of its priests, the Rev. Charles F. Bodziak, in the 1970s and 1980s. The case is scheduled to be heard at 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 20, with arguments livestreamed on YouTube, according to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

Ms. Rice’s lawsuit, filed in 2016, was dismissed by a Blair County judge who said the statute of limitations precluded suing over long-ago abuse.

But the state Superior Court ruled in 2019 that she could pursue her claim that the Altoona-Johnstown diocese covered up sexual abuse by numerous priests using a pattern of alleged fraud and conspiracy that continued right up to the 2016 release of a grand jury report into sexual abuse in the diocese. In similar cases in previous years, the Superior Court had ruled in favor of the church, but it based its latest ruling on a new Supreme Court precedent in a medical malpractice case, which said a patient with Lyme disease could sue long after a misdiagnosis because it took years for the disease to manifest itself.

Numerous plaintiffs have used the same legal theory of alleged fraud and conspiracy as the basis for lawsuits against the Pittsburgh, Greensburg and other dioceses that were subjects of a similar and larger grand jury report in 2018. Those still-pending lawsuits hinge on the precedent in the Altoona-Johnstown case.








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