Jury Awards $3.555 Million to Man Sexually Abused by Priest

United Press International
December 7, 1990

A 24-year-old man who claimed he was sexually abused by his parish priest for eight years was awarded $3.555 million in damages by a jury Friday.

The verdict by the six-member Anoka County District Court jury was a major victory for the man, who had sought $5.5 million in damages while attorneys for the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona had sought to limit any award to no more than $326,000 in compensatory damages.

A court spokeswoman said five of the six jurors concurred in the decision to give the man $855,000 in damages for past and future medical and therapy expenses, loss of earnings, embarrassment and emotional distress.

The jury awarded him $2.7 million in punitive damages.

The jury found the archdiocese and the diocese were 85 percent responsible for the abuse inflicted by the Rev. Thomas Adamson. The other 15 percent was attributed to the plaintiff, his father and his mother.

The jury said there was clear and convincing evidence of willful indifference or lack of concern on the part of the church officials and that they were reckless in employing the priest, who had a 24-year history of abusing boys.

The verdict came near the end of the jury's fourth day of deliberations, following a five-week trial.

In his closing arguments early this week, Jeffrey Anderson, the attorney for the young man, said a large damage award was justified because the church officials deliberately refused to respond to knowledge of Adamson's problem.

"They didn't approve of sex abuse ... they didn't want that to happen,"

Anderson said. "They weren't malicious, but they made deliberate decisions.

They were more than negligent .. they were reckless."

Adamson has admitted sexual misconduct with boys in the Winona diocese beginning in 1961 and in the archdiocese after his transfer there in 1975.

John Hoffman, the archdiocese's attorney, said that while the defendants admitted negligence in not properly handling the priest but that there was no willful indifference to anyone's safety that would justify punitive damages.

"We made mistakes, but there was no disregard for the safety of others," he said in his closing statement. "Our biggest mistake was believing in this priest. He lied to them (authorities)."

Adamson is living in the Eau Claire, Wis., area and is working as a clerk.

Adamson's attorney, Theodore Collins, said the priest has been banished form the Winona diocese and the archdiocese.


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