Court Rejects Church Move to Fault Sex-Abuse Plaintiff

By Lum Curtis
Honolulu Advertiser (Honolulu, HI)
September 17, 2002

A Circuit Court judge yesterday struck down an attempt by the Catholic Diocese of Hawaii to place partial blame on a man who said he was sexually assaulted by a priest more than 40 years ago.

Alexander Winchester filed a lawsuit in July and accused the late Rev. Alphonsus Boumeister of sexually assaulting him when Winchester attended catechism classes in 1961 at Blessed Sacrament Church in Nuuanu. Winchester was 11 years old at the time.

Boumeister, who came to Hawaii in 1915, died in 1972 at the age of 84.

In its response to the lawsuit, the diocese said Winchester was partially responsible for the injuries or damages suffered when he was molested.

"If plaintiff received any of the injuries or suffered any of the damages alleged in the ... (complaint), said injuries or damages were proximately caused by plaintiff's negligence and assumption of risk," the church said in its response.

In arguing against the plaintiff's motion to strike the church's so-called "first affirmative defense," church attorney William Bordner said the diocese is not asserting that Winchester was to blame for the alleged assaults. Bordner said whatever injuries Winchester may have suffered were the result of Winchester's "resistance to his health care providers' attempts at treatment."

"The complaint said the plaintiff resisted his health care providers' therapeutic suggestions - in that, he placed in issue the reasonableness of his conduct, not as an 11-year-old child, but whenever he was seeking professional care for whatever problems he has," Bordner said.

But Judge Virginia Crandall yesterday granted Winchester's motion to throw out the diocese's first affirmative defense that Winchester's behavior as a child contributed to the alleged assaults.

Attorney Philip Brown, who is representing Winchester, said Crandall made the correct ruling.

"There's no way that a court was going to hold that Mr. Winchester brought this molestation on himself when he was an 11-year-old boy," Brown said. "They can still argue that ... (Winchester) didn't properly get medical attention. We just don't want them saying that he caused the molestation."

Winchester, 52, is seeking an unspecified amount in damages. No trial date has been set.


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