Appeals court decision delivers blow to priest abuse victims - KCTV5 News

Appeals court decision delivers blow to priest abuse victims

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Legal experts say any lawsuits against the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph will be a much steeper hill to climb for clergy abuse victims after a recent Missouri Court of Appeals ruling.

In John Doe v. Archdiocese of St. Louis, a sexual abuse victim blamed the diocese for failing to supervise one of its priests, Father Thomas Cooper.

The court ruled Cooper's improprieties happened off church grounds, excusing any liability on the diocese.

"Because of this case, if the sexual activity occurs off premises, then according to this decision, using the theory of intentional failure to supervise the catholic church or any church would not be liable," said Jeffrey Thomas, University of Missouri Kansas City law professor.

Thomas says the religious nature of the organization forces the victim to prove the church knew the risk of dangerous conduct and it failed to act. The appeals court cited a previous case where the church's insurance did not cover actions off diocesan property.

 "It makes it easier for the diocese.  It makes a stronger defense for the diocese and makes it harder for victims to prove their case," Thomas said.

Clergy abuse attorney Rebecca Randles says she plans to appeal the decision soon. 

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