Diocese of Scranton seeks stay of sex abuse cases

The Diocese of Scranton wants the state Supreme Court to stay all activity in lawsuits filed by five men who allege they were molested by a priest until the court rules on a critical legal issue that could nix the cases.

In a recent court filing, attorneys for the diocese estimate it will incur over $200,000 in attorneys’ fees gathering evidence that lawyers for the victims are seeking. Those fees would be wasted if the Supreme Court ultimately overturns an Allegheny County case that extends the statute of limitations for sexual abuse victims to file suit.

Kingston attorney Kevin Quinn filed separate lawsuits last year on behalf of five men who allege the Rev. Michael Pulicare, who died in 1999, sexually abused them in the mid-1970s, when they were children attending St. Joseph’s Church in the Minooka section of Scranton.

The lawsuits, filed in Lackawanna County Court, name as defendants the diocese, the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, bishop of Scranton, and retired Bishop James C. Timlin.The viability of the suits hinges on the Supreme Court’s pending review of a Superior Court decision in a lawsuit Renee Rice filed against the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

In that case, Rice’s claims initially were dismissed because they fell outside the statute of limitations. The Superior Court overturned the ruling, finding that, when a case involves accusations the church concealed the abuse, a jury should decide if the victim’s delay in coming forward was reasonable.

The court’s decision opened the door for the Lackawanna County plaintiffs and at least 20 other people who filed suit in other jurisdictions. If the Supreme Court overturns the Superior Court ruling, all those cases likely would be dismissed.

Attorneys for the diocese asked Lackawanna County Judge Margaret Bisignani Moyle to stay pretrial evidence gathering in the cases until the Supreme Court rules on the matter, but she denied the request.

The attorneys recently filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to take jurisdiction and issue a stay. The court has not yet decided if it will acce...

Read the rest of the story here.

SNAP Network is a GuideStar Gold Participant