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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Repetitive Priest Sex-Abuse Claims Nixed

CHICAGO (CN) - A Milwaukee victim of priest sex abuse who received $80,000 in mediation cannot seek additional compensation, the 7th Circuit ruled.

The Rev. Lawrence Murphy sexually abused the boy in question, identified only as John Doe, in 1974 while he attended St. John's School for the Deaf.

Doe participated in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's voluntary mediation program in 2007, and received an $80,000 settlement on all his claims "arising from any sexual abuse of [Doe] by Murphy."

As part of the settlement, Doe signed a confidentiality clause stating that he could not introduce admissions made during the mediation as evidence in a later proceeding.

But when the archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy four years later, Doe filed a claim in the proceeding based on the same sexual-abuse allegations and sought to introduce the evidence presented in mediation.

Doe claimed that he was not represented by counsel at the mediation, and that the archdiocese misrepresented to him the amount it paid to other sex-abuse survivors in other settlements.

On Wednesday a three-judge panel with the 7th Circuit affirmed a finding by the bankruptcy court that the evidence filed in the mediation was not admissible because the mediation and bankruptcy proceeding were not distinct disputes.

"Doe also argues that the two proceedings were based on different conduct," Judge Ann Williams wrote for the court. "In the mediation, the underlying conduct was the allegation that the archdiocese allowed Murphy to work with children. Doe maintains that in the bankruptcy, the relevant conduct is the archdiocese's alleged misrepresentations and non-disclosures during the mediation session."

Both actions are underlined by Murphy's abuse of Doe, the court found. It also noted that Doe seek damages, not for the archdiocese's alleged fraudulent inducement in the bankruptcy proceeding, but for the sexual abuse he experienced as a child.

"The purpose of the mediation was to resolve Doe's claims against the archdiocese relating to his abuse by Murphy, and Doe signed a complete release stating that the settlement resolved all disputes with the archdiocese," Williams wrote. "A result that would undo that settlement and would allow Doe, years after the mediation settlement, the possibility of receiving more money from the archdiocese for the same abuse could discourage parties from quickly resolving their disputes through mediation."

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