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Southern Calif. Priest Sex Abuse Cases filed Spring 2022

Several priest abuse cases were filed in southern California in April 2022. Plaintiffs in these cases claim they were sexually abused as minors, in several different southern California dioceses. The cases were filed in the Superior Court of the State of California in the Spring Street courthouse in the County of Los Angeles. The law firms of Matthews & Associates and Freese & Goss filed the claims for the Plaintiffs, who were helped by a recent California law change over sex abuse claims.

The amended complaint gives the Plaintiffs’ attorneys legal room to add several more claimants, along with more Defendants as they are identified in the ongoing legal action.

Minors Sexually Abused by Calif. Priests, Petition Alleges

The petition states that, “The plaintiff was a minor in the mid 1980s when the alleged abuse occurred in a Southern California Catholic church diocese.”

The case (JCCP 5101) is pending before Judge David S. Cunningham, III.

Damages Suffered by the Plaintiff as a result of Childhood Sexual Assault, Abuse, and/or Harassment by the Doe Perpetrator

The complaint alleges that: “As a direct and proximate result of the childhood sexual assault, harassment and abuse committed against the Plaintiff by the DOE PERPETRATOR, which was enabled and facilitated by DEFENDANTS RELIGIOUS ENTITIES, Plaintiff has suffered personal physical injury of sexual assault, and has and will continue to suffer, psychological, mental, and emotional distress.”

Petition Alleges Numerous Injuries from Sex Assault(s)

The petition alleges that the Plaintiff suffered, and continues to suffer, from the following conditions, without limitation:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Depression
  3. Flashbacks and/or reexperiencing
  4. Anger
  5. Betrayal
  6. Loss of faith
  7. Nervousness
  8. Problems with those in positions of authority
  9. Interpersonal relationship problems with those in positions of confidence or trust
  10. Problems interacting with others, including but not limited to family members
  11. Guilt, shame, and/or humiliation
  12. Suicidal ideation or thoughts
  13. Suicide attempts

Plaintiffs also filed an amended Master Complaint for damages that lists 15 causes of action, though the cases filed in April list causes *3, *4, *5 and *6 below. All 15 in the Master Complaint are nevertheless included here for the edification of the interested reader.

15 Causes of Action

 1) Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

The lawsuit petition reads, in part: “. . . Defendants’ conduct described herein was intentional and malicious and done for the purpose of causing, or with reckless disregard to the rights of Plaintiff, with the substantial certainty that it would cause Plaintiff and the other children who were enrolled in, participated in, or were members and participants in, activities of their parish and of Defendants’ religious, educational, recreational, and social programs, to suffer humiliation, mental anguish and emotional and physical distress.

“. . .  As a result (Plaintiff) suffered and continues to suffer great pain of mind and body, shock, emotional distress, physical manifestations of emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, humiliation, and loss of enjoyment of life; has suffered and continues to suffer and was prevented and will continue to be prevented from performing daily activities and obtaining the full enjoyment of life; will sustain loss of earnings and earning capacity, and has incurred and will continue to incur expenses for medical and psychological treatment, therapy, and counseling.”

2) Human Trafficking (Civil Code § 52.5)

  1. The Plaintiff had his or her personal liberty and/or freedom deprived when the DOE PERPETRATOR transported Plaintiff.
  2. The Plaintiff was a minor, therefore was unable to give consent to such acts. Purported consent of a minor is no basis for a defense under Penal Code §236.1(e)
  3. The DOE PERPETRATOR transported the Plaintiff in order to obtain forced, sexual services from the Plaintiff, in a secluded area, such services of which were performed upon by the DOE PERPETRATOR.
  4. Plaintiff, as a minor, did perform forced, sexual services for the DOE PERPETRATOR, after Plaintiff had been transported. The Plaintiff was a minor at all relevant times and was unable to give valid consent to any of the sex acts that were perpetrated upon Plaintiff by DOE PERPETRATOR.

*3) Negligence

Under negligence, the petition alleges that the “[D]efendants knew or should have known that their agent, employee, counselor, advisor and mentor, including the DOE PERPETRATOR, had sexually molested, abused or caused touching, battery, harm, and other injuries to minors, including Plaintiff, giving rise to a duty to report such conduct under California Penal Code §11166.”

*4) Negligent Supervision

The lawsuit complaint says the “Plaintiff is informed and believes” Defendants were put on notice, and knew or should have known, that the alleged perpetrator had previously engaged and was continuing to engage in unlawful sexual conduct with children and committed other felonies, for his own personal gratification, and that it was, or should have been foreseeable, that he was engaging, or would engage in, illicit sexual activities with Plaintiff, and others, under the cloak of his authority, confidence, and trust, bestowed upon the alleged perp by the Defendant religious entities.

*5) Negligent Retention/Hiring

“Plaintiff is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges that DEFENDANTS RELIGIOUS ENTITIES and DOES 1 through 500’s [to be added in the petition], inclusive, were placed on actual and/or constructive notice that the DOE PERPETRATOR had abused, harassed, molested and/or was molesting minor children, both before his sexual assault, molestation and harassment of the Plaintiff, and during that same period. Plaintiff is informed, and thereon alleges, that other third parties, patrons, and/or law enforcement officials informed DEFENDANTS RELIGIOUS ENTITIES and DOES 1 through 500, inclusive, of inappropriate conduct and molestations committed by the DOE PERPETRATOR.”

*6) Negligent Failure to Warn, Train, or Educate

The petition further claims Defendants “breached their duty to take reasonable protective measures to protect Plaintiff and other minor children in their charge, from the risk of sexual assault, harassment and molestation by the (perp) such as the failure to properly warn, train or educate Plaintiff and other minor children in their charge about how to avoid such a risk.” 

7) Breach of Fiduciary Duty

The defendants “recruited, enticed, and encouraged Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s family to give their trust and confidence to Defendants and the DOE PERPETRATOR so that Plaintiff could be taken from his or her family’s care and supervision and placed under the care and supervision of Defendants and the DOE PERPETRATOR. In so doing, Defendants, inclusive, entered into a fiduciary relationship with Plaintiff whereby Defendants owed Plaintiff an in loco parentis duty of care to take all reasonable steps and implement all reasonable safeguards to protect Plaintiff while they were in the custody of Defendants and/or the DOE PERPETRATOR.”

8) Constructive Fraud (CIVIL CODE §1573)

Defendants suppressed and concealed the true facts regarding the perp with the purpose of preventing the plaintiff and parents, family, and others, from learning that the (perp) and others had been and were continuing to sexually harass, molest and assault minors and others under the (perp) and other defendants “control, direction, and guidance, with complete impunity; inducing people, including Plaintiff and other benefactors and donors to participate and financially support Defendants and other enterprises of Defendants; preventing further reports and outside investigations into the (perp’s) and Defendants’ conduct; preventing discovery of Defendants’ own conduct; avoiding damage to the reputations of Defendants; protecting Defendants’ power and status in the community and the academic community; avoiding damage to the reputation of Defendants, or Defendants’ institutions; and avoiding civil and criminal liability.

9) Sexual Harassment (Civil Code §51.9)

The John Doe (perp) intentionally, recklessly and wantonly made sexual advances, solicitations, requests, demands for sexual compliance of a hostile nature based on Plaintiff’s gender that were unwelcome, pervasive and severe, all under the supervision of Defendants. The incidents of assault outlined herein took place while Plaintiff was under the control of Defendants, as well as the staff of Defendants in their capacity and position as teachers, spiritual advisors, counselors, mentors, supervisors and administrators acting on behalf of Defendants.

10) Fraudulent Transfer (Civil Code §§3439 ET SEQ)

Plaintiffs allege that Defendants “intentionally transferred the interests in financial assets with the actual intent to prevent Plaintiff from collecting from said assets after the Transfer of Asset(s) was complete.

By reason of the foregoing, the Transfer of Asset(s) is voidable pursuant to California Civil Code §3439.04(a)(1) and (2) and §3439.05, and §3439.07. Pursuant to California Civil Code §3439.07, Plaintiff requests a judgment voiding the Transfer of Asset(s); and/or a money judgment against Defendants for the value of the Transfer of Asset(s).

The recipient(s) of said Transfer of Asset(s), is/are not yet known by Plaintiff. Plaintiff will seek to amend the Complaint to allege the true names and capacities when such have been ascertained. 

11) Sexual Battery (Civil Code §1708.5)

The (perp) acted with “intent to cause a harmful or offensive contact with an intimate part of Plaintiff’s person and would offend a reasonable sense of personal dignity. Further, said acts did cause a harmful or offensive contact with an intimate part of Plaintiff’s person that would offend a reasonable sense of personal dignity.

Because of the (perp’s) position of authority over Plaintiff, and Plaintiff’s mental and emotional state, and Plaintiff’s young age which was under the age of consent, Plaintiff was unable to, and did not, give meaningful consent to such acts. 

12) Sexual Assault

Plaintiff did not consent to the (perp’s) intended harmful or offensive contact with Plaintiff’s person, or intent to put Plaintiff in imminent apprehension of such contact. Additionally, because Plaintiff was a minor during the time herein alleged, they lacked the ability to consent to sexual contact with any person.

In doing the things alleged, the (perp) violated Plaintiff’s right, pursuant to Civil Code §43, of protection from bodily restraint or harm, and from personal insult. In doing the alleged, the (Doe perp) violated his duty, pursuant to Civil Code §1708, to abstain from injuring the person of Plaintiff or infringing upon Plaintiff’s rights.

As a result, the Plaintiff has suffered and continues to suffer great pain of mind and body, shock, emotional distress, physical manifestations of emotional distress including embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, humiliations, and loss of enjoyment of life; has suffered and will continue to suffer and was prevented and will continue to be prevented from performing daily activities and obtaining the full enjoyment of life; will sustain loss of earnings and earning capacity, and/or has incurred and will continue to incur expenses for medical and psychological treatment, therapy, and counseling.

Plaintiff is informed and based thereon alleges that the conduct of the (Doe Perp) was oppressive, malicious and despicable in that it was intentional and done in conscious disregard for the rights and safety of others, and was carried out with a conscious disregard of Plaintiff’s right to be free from such tortious behavior.

In the state of California, oppression, fraud or malice pursuant to California Civil Code §3294, entitles Plaintiff to punitive damages against the (Doe perp) in an amount appropriate to punish and set an example of the (perp). 

13) Gender Violence

The (Doe Perp’s) acts committed against Plaintiff, as alleged herein, including the sexual harassment, molestation and assault of the minor Plaintiff constitute gender violence and a form of sex discrimination in that one or more of Defendants’ acts would constitute a criminal offense under state law that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another, committed at least in part based on the gender of the victim, whether or not those acts have resulted in criminal complaints, charges, prosecution, or convictions. 

14) Violation of Penal Code §288(A)

California Penal Code §288(a) provides that “… a person who willfully and lewdly commits any lewd or lascivious act, including any of the acts constituting other crimes provided for in Part 1, upon or with the body, or any part or member thereof, of a child who is under the age of 14 years, with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of that person or the child, is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for three, six, or eight years..” 

15) Violation of Penal Code §647.6

California Penal Code §647.6(a)(1) provides that “[e]very person who annoys or molests any child under 18 years of age shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both the fine and imprisonment.”

The (Doe perp) sexually molested and annoyed the Plaintiff while Plaintiff was under eighteen (18) years of age, in violation of California Penal Code §647.6(a)(1). 200.

Under California law, victims of childhood sexual abuse are entitled to bring civil actions for violations of Penal Code provisions that prohibit adults from engaging in sexual acts with minors, including Penal Code §647.6(a)(1). See Angie M. v. Superior Court (Hiemstra), (1995) 37 Cal.App.4th 1217, 1224-25.

The complaint demands a jury trial.

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