Thursday, February 3, 2011

Failure to disclose

N.L. church failure to disclose abuse 'voids' insurance
Insurance firms would refuse to give any money to a man alleging abuse by priest
Last Updated: Thursday, February 3, 2011 | 1:19 PM NT
CBC News
The Roman Catholic Basilica of St. John the Baptist is one of the buildings owned by the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John's. (John Gushue/ CBC)Two insurance companies say they cannot be held responsible for any financial compensation from a civil lawsuit by a man alleging he was sexually abused by a priest with the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John's.

Guardian Insurance and the Insurance Corporation of Newfoundland say the church failed to disclose key information, so they aren't obligated to pay the man, who is from Trepassey in eastern Newfoundland on the Avalon Peninsula, if he is awarded compensation.

“[The church] was specifically aware of the sexual misconduct of the 'priest' and failed to disclose that knowledge to the company when the policy was taken out," The Insurance Company of Newfoundland said in documents filed in court in 2009.

Guardian said "this failure to disclose was…a material misrepresentation which voids the policy."

The man, named John Doe in court documents, claims he was sexually assaulted by a priest decades ago.

"Assaults included acts of fondling, masturbation, oral sex, attempted anal intercourse, digital anal penetration, ridicule and exhibitionism," according to his statement of claim.

The document also alleges the church failed to protect John Doe. None of the allegations has been proven in court.

"The archbishops and the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John's knew or ought to have known of the actions, activities and propensities of the [priest], but continued to employ him as a parish priest being aware that doing so would result in the continuing exposure of vulnerable persons," according to the statement of claim.

Lawyer Greg Stack is representing a man from Trepassey who claims he was repeatedly abused by a priest in eastern Newfoundland. (CBC)Over the past two decades, the church and its insurers have paid out millions of dollars to victims of sexual abuse by priests.

Greg Stack, the lawyer representing the man suing the church, told CBC News that if the companies won't pay any compensation if it’s awarded, he'll go after the church for the money.

"In 2001, the church's business manager indicated that they had between $10 [million] and $12 million sitting in their bank account ... so we don't think the insurance is needed," Stack told CBC News.

His client doesn't specify how much he is seeking in damages in his statement of claim. The court document asks the court to determine what compensation would be appropriate.

He is asking that his court costs and exemplary and punitive damages are paid by the defendants.

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