Rhode Island Litigation Will Test New Statute of Limitations
New York has the Child Victims Act, a law which amended the statute of limitations to provide additional time for victims of sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits and criminal charges. The law also has a one year “look back” period. Victims of sexual abuse who were barred from pursuing remedies under the old statute have a period of one year to file their cases.
Many other states have passed similar legislation in the wake of investigations into sexual abuse by clergy members, particularly those in the catholic church. There has been mounting evidence that various religious institutions have actively kept secret allegations of sexual abuse against their leaders. As more victims come forward under we are learning that sexual abuse of children and young adults has been tolerated for too long by nearly every religious order.
Rhode Island passed a similar extension of the statute of limitations giving victims of childhood sexual abuse up to 35 years after they turn 18 to file lawsuits against their perpetrators and perpetrator defendants. The Boston Globe reported on October 3, 2019, that a lawsuit filed by Philip Edwardo is the first litigation case under the new statute.
Lawsuit Alleges Priest Molested Victim Hundreds of Times
Edwardo’s lawsuit alleges that he was abused by Philip Magaldi long-deceased priest who worked at St. Anthony’s Church in Providence. In his complaint, according to the Globe, Edwardo alleges “that Magaldi began abusing him when he was 12, in the late 1970s, until he was 17. He accuses Magaldi of inappropriately touching and molesting him 100 to 300 times over a five-year span, including during trips to Hampton Beach, N.H., and New York City.”
The lawsuit, filed in Providence Superior Court with just a few days to spare, names as the defendants “former bishop Louis A. Gelineau, who was in charge of the diocese during the alleged abuse, Bishop Thomas Tobin, St. Anthony Church, and the diocese. Edwardo’s lawyer believes that the Diocese of Providence and its leaders can “be held accountable as perpetrators of the alleged abuse.” The Globe reported that the lawyer, who has represented dozens of clergy abuse victims, argues in the complaint that “the diocese had a system to cover up and shield clergy who abuse children.”
Clergy Sexual Abuse Case Presents Unique Legal Question
One consideration, in this case, maybe whether the extended statute of limitations applies to parties other than the one who directly committed the alleged sexual abuse. In other words, can an employer or supervisor that covered up, allowed, or ignored the sexual abuse, fall into the perpetrator-defendant category? The issue is compared to the driver of a getaway car; is the driver equally as responsible for the crime of bank robbery as the person who held the gun and stole the money?
The Globe reports that the issue may be one of legislative intent. Carol Hagan McEntee, the state legislator who sponsored the legislation in honor of her sister, who was the victim of clergy abuse, said there is no question about her intent. She said,
“A nonperpetrator becomes a perpetrator through the continuous and deliberate acts in which they intentionally transfer a known pedophile to another parish or state without disclosing or providing notice to that parish or state of past sexual abuse by the priest, which lead to that priest abusing other innocent children.”
This case can have far-reaching implications for victims in Rhode Island and other states that are just seeing lawsuits under new statutes of limitations. It will be interesting to see how the courts resolve this issue and pave the way for future litigation.
Contact Us If You Have Been Sexually Abused By A Clergy Member.
Our lawyers at Alonso Krangle, LLP will provide you with a free case evaluation. Call our clergy sexual abuse lawyers today at 800-403-6191.