High Court Ruling On Oakland Clergy Abuse Case Could Prompt New Lawsuits

OAKLAND (KCBS) – A clergy sex abuse case argued before the California Supreme Court on Thursday could open Roman Catholic dioceses around the state to another round of priest molestation lawsuits.

Six brothers suing the church have given sworn depositions that their psychological troubles as adults can be traced to sexual abuse by a former priest, Donald Broderson, when he served at an Oakland church in the 1970s.

KCBS’ Anna Duckworth Reports:

Broderson served at several East Bay parishes until he was forced to retire in 1993. He remained licensed as a marriage and family therapist until his death in 2010.

The Catholic Church wants the case dismissed on the grounds that the brothers cannot seek damages because the statute of limitations expired.

The men, now in their 40s and 50s, did not sue the Diocese of Oakland until 2005. A state appeals court in 2009 ruled clergy abuse victims could have 3 years after delayed discovery of mental suffering to go to court.

If the Supreme Court allows the suit to go forward, proving any psychological distress was caused directly by the alleged molestation will be difficult, said Thomas Plante, a psychology professor at Santa Clara University who has written several books on clergy abuse.

“Usually adult troubles are due to a confluence of factors. Abuse may be one factor, but there may be other factors too,” Plante said.

The outcome of the case will set precedent for 8 similar lawsuits throughout the state.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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