US Jury Awards $6m For Church Abuse

Reuters/April 21, 2005

A jury in San Francisco awarded nearly US$6 million to three men and a woman who sued the city's Roman Catholic archdiocese, claiming one of its priest had molested them when they were children.

The award, coming on the heels of a nearly $2 million award last week by an Oakland, California, jury in another church sex abuse case, is a stiff penalty, the lawyer for one of the victims said.

"This verdict is the largest compensatory verdict in the United States in one of these cases since 1998," said attorney Larry Drivon.

During the civil trial, the archdiocese said its officials were aware in the 1970s of claims of sexual abuse by the priest, the Rev Joseph Pritchard, and had not investigated them.

"While the incidents of abuse in these lawsuits date back more than two decades ago, this fact does not lessen our vigilance today, nor diminish our concern for victims of past abuse," the archdiocese said in a statement posted on its Web site.

"We believe that the litigants are entitled to reasonable compensation under the law for the abuse they suffered," the archdiocese said. "This belief continues to guide our efforts to reach fair and reasonable settlements of the remaining civil lawsuits filed against the archdiocese."

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