Priest sex-abuse suits ruled too old

Ohio Supreme Court tosses more than 50; law change sought

The Cincinnati Inquirer/August 24, 2006
By Dan Horn

The Ohio Supreme Court threw out more than 50 sexual-abuse lawsuits against Cincinnati priests Wednesday, saying the accusations are too old for Ohio's courts to consider.

Catholic Church officials and victims' groups expected the decision because the court ruled in June that accusers must sue by age 20.

The June ruling served notice that any lawsuit filed after the deadline would likely be dismissed.

"We knew this was coming," said Dan Frondorf, who claimed in one of the lawsuits he was abused. "We have no choice but to live with it."

The decision ends a four-year legal fight over dozens of cases involving allegations of abuse by priests.

Many of those claims date back years and, in some cases, decades.

Victims' advocates wanted the old cases to proceed, saying it was the only way victims could get justice. Church officials said extending the deadline would be unfair because it would be difficult to defend against allegations from so long ago.

Both sides said the June decision assured the other old cases eventually would be thrown out.

"This is the expected and logical outcome," said Dan Andriacco, an Archdiocese of Cincinnati spokesman. The archdiocese and Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk were accused in most lawsuits of failing to stop abusive priests.

Current law requires victims of child abuse to sue within two years of their 18th birthdays. A new law that takes effect this year will extend the deadline to 12 years, but it does not apply retroactively to accusers in older cases.

The justices voted 4-1 to uphold lower-court rulings dismissing the lawsuits.

As in the June decision, Justices Thomas Moyer, Maureen O'Connor, Terrence O'Donnell and Evelyn Lundberg Stratton were in the majority.

Justice Paul Pfeifer dissented while justices Judith Ann Lanzinger and Alice Robie Resnick did not participate.

Konrad Kircher, a lawyer for many accusers, said his clients now will attempt to convince state legislators to change the law and waive the deadline for old cases.

The Ohio House rejected such a proposal earlier this year.

"We're still hopeful the legislature will realize that permitting Pilarczyk and his henchmen to get away with these crimes is intolerable," Kircher said.

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