Judge Rules Public Nuisance Claim against the Archdiocese, Diocese of Winona, Can Proceed to Trial

After hearing oral arguments from all parties on July 21, 2014, Ramsey County District Court Judge John Van de North issued an Order today denying the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis and Diocese of Winona’s request to dismiss the public nuisance legal claim in the Doe 1 lawsuit.

The Court found, “Failing to disclose information about an accused priest is akin to, and conceivably more offensive and dangerous, than other acts that have been considered public nuisances . . . . [t]he Court need look no further than Fathers Adamson and Curtis Wehmeyer as unfortunate examples of the horrendous consequences that can flow from intentional and misguided efforts to protect pedophile priests at the expense of minors.” (Order Denying Summary Judgment Motions Regarding Plaintiff’s Negligence and Public Nuisance Claims, pp. 10-11.)

“This is a breakthrough in child protection efforts,” said one of Doe 1’s attorneys Jeff Anderson. “The courage of this survivor and decision of Judge Van de North allows us to continue our efforts to protect children in the future.”

The lawsuit was filed May 29, 2013 on behalf of a courageous sexual abuse survivor alleging the Archdiocese and Diocese of Winona were negligent in allowing former priest Thomas Adamson continued access to children despite knowing of Adamson’s past inappropriate behavior with young boys. “This is a historic decision in this survivor’s efforts to seek truth and transparency,” said Attorney Mike Finnegan, another of Doe 1’s attorneys.

The Court continued, “A reasonable jury could find that the [Archdiocese and Diocese] maintained or permitted a condition which unreasonably endangered the safety, health, morals, comfort or repose of any considerable number of members of the public.” (Order Denying Summary Judgment Motions Regarding Plaintiff’s Negligence and Public Nuisance Claims, pp. 11.)

Through this lawsuit, numerous documents and information on priests alleged to have sexually abused children have been released, along with sworn testimony from top Church officials including Archbishop John Nienstedt, Archbishop Robert Carlson, Vicar General Kevin McDonough and former Vicar General Peter Laird.