After Verdict in Abuse Case, Vermont Judge Puts Lien on Church

May 20, 2008

A judge has agreed to put a lien of more than $10 million on property including the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, to secure damages won by the plaintiff in a suit alleging sexual abuse by a former priest.

Judge Matthew Katz approved a “writ of attachment” on the property overlooking Lake Champlain, after finding that the plaintiff, a 40-year-old former altar boy, had a “reasonable likelihood of success” in the suit, which the diocese is expected to appeal.

The property was targeted because “the court finds no liability insurance, bond, or other security known or reasonably believed to be available to satisfy a judgment,” the judge wrote.

Tom McCormick, a lawyer for the diocese, said the lien was expected.

“A writ of attachment is a standard post-judgment course of action,” McCormick said. “We are going to appeal the case. The writ won’t affect the appeal and it won’t affect the operations of the diocese.”

The judge’s order came last Friday, three days after a Chittenden County Superior Court jury determined the diocese was recklessly negligent in its supervision of former Rev. Edward Paquette.

The plaintiff — the Associated Press does not identify victims of alleged sexual abuse without their OK — said that Paquette fondled him more than 40 times during his time as an altar boy in the 1970s.

The six-day trial included evidence that the diocese knew Paquette had a record of molesting boys at parishes in Massachusetts and Indiana before coming to Vermont in 1972, and that it allowed him to remain a priest after new, similar allegations arose in the Rutland parish where he was working in 1974.

The jury awarded the plaintiff, who lives in Lakewood, Colo., $950,000 in compensatory damages and $7.75 million in punitive damages.

Katz set the lien at $10,266,000, saying $1,566,000 of that amount was calculated to account for interest on the $8.7 million in damages while the case is under appeal.

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Information from: The Burlington Free Press,
http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com

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