Altar boy's suit accuses priest of abuse, seeks $50,000

An anonymous plaintiff is suing the Diocese of Winona for damages resulting from a sexual assault he claims took place 36 years ago.

Winona Daily News/May 23, 2003
By Jerome Christenson

The suit was filed in February in Ramsey County District Court and has been transferred to Winona County District Court after a successful change of venue motion by the diocese. The suit seeks damages "in excess of $50,000" plus attorneys' fees and other costs.

The plaintiff, identified in court documents only as John Doe 76A, claims he was sexually abused in 1967 when he was 13 to 14 years old, by the Rev. Thomas Adamson, then a priest serving the Diocese of Winona. The suit claims that as a result of the abuse the plaintiff "has suffered and will continue to suffer great pain of mind and body" which required medical and psychological treatment.

Court documents filed on behalf of the plaintiff state he was "raised in a devout Roman Catholic family, served as an altar boy" and was an active, practicing member of the church. His devotion to the church and respect for the clergy made him particularly vulnerable to Adamson's advances and made them particularly damaging, the suit says. The suit claims that the "sexual abuse and the circumstances under which it occurred" led the plaintiff to develop psychological "coping mechanisms, including denial and disassociation from his experiences."

"Plaintiff did not know, nor did he have reason to know, that he had been sexually abused and/or that his injuries were caused by his sexual abuse until recently," the complaint states. The suit claims that the diocese "recently ... promised to pay for therapy for the plaintiff" but subsequently backed out of that pledge.

The suit specifically charges the diocese with negligence, sexual battery, fiduciary fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty.

Adamson was accused of sexual misconduct in a number of suits filed in the 1980s against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and the Diocese of Winona. Adamson admitted having sexual contact with boys while a priest, teacher and school administrator for the Diocese of Winona, beginning in 1961 and continuing after he was transferred to the St. Paul archdiocese in 1975. In one of those cases, a jury in 1990 initially awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages to a former Columbia Heights altar boy who had been abused by Adamson. That award that was significantly reduced on appeal.

The case for John Doe 76A is being handled by St. Paul attorney Jeffrey Anderson, the same attorney who represented the Columbia Heights man.

Telephone calls to attorneys for the plaintiff and the diocese and a designated diocesan spokesman were not returned Thursday.

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