Dioceses to pay $3.5 million in abuse lawsuit

December 08, 1990|By Knight-Ridder News Service

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA — ST. PAUL, Minn. -- An Anoka County jury sent a stern message yesterday to two Roman Catholic dioceses about responsibility for their priests' actions by awarding damages totaling about $3.5 million to a Columbia Heights, Minn., man who was sexually abused for years by a priest with a history of such abuse.

The judgment marked the first time in U.S. history that punitive damages have been assessed against the Catholic Church in any type of case, and only the second time a jury has awarded compensatory damages in a sexual abuse case involving a priest, according to plaintiff's attorney Jeffrey Anderson. The other sex abuse judgment was in Louisiana.

The jury decided after 3 1/2 days of deliberation that the Rev. Thomas Adamson's abuse of the plaintiff was but a part of a larger picture in which the Winona Diocese and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis had tried to hide Father Adamson's 23-year history of sexually molesting boys.

By awarding $2.7 million in punitive damages, the jury told church officials they agreed with Mr. Anderson, a St. Paul attorney, that the dioceses had been more than negligent in covering up numerous instances of Father Adamson's impropriety in both dioceses.

During the trial, Mr. Anderson contended that church authorities knew of Father Adamson's problem but kept moving him from parish to parish to posts that brought him in contact with youngsters.

Father Adamson's abuse of the victim, now 24, began in 1979 when the youth was 13 years old.

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