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Jury: Archdiocese Liable for Sex Abuse

March 18, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The Archdiocese of San Francisco knew or should have known that one of its priests was molesting boys during the 1970s, a jury decided Friday in a landmark case. The jury will now decide how much to award the victim.

By a 10-2 vote, jurors decided in favor of 47-year-old Dennis Kavanaugh, who had sued the archdiocese, alleging that the late Rev. Joseph Pritchard had molested him during the early 1970s.

Kavanaugh’s was the first of more than 750 lawsuits against Roman Catholic dioceses in California to go to trial since California temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for filing sex-abuse claims in 2002.

The verdict and any subsequent award for damages in his case could have broader implications for the hundreds of other lawsuits by increasing the pressure on the church to settle.

The archdiocese did not dispute that Kavanaugh was abused. The question before the jury was whether Pritchard’s superiors knew or should have known about it.

``This victory is based and rests on the efforts, the courage, the guts and determination of so many incredibly brave survivors that came forward over the years,″ Kavanaugh’s attorney, Larry Drivon, said afterward. ``This is a vindication of their bravery.″

An attorney and a spokesman for the archdiocese declined comment.

Pritchard died of cancer in 1988 before the allegations became known.

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