- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - An 11-day trial in a former altar boy’s lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph ended abruptly with a nearly $10 million settlement that covers his case and 29 others alleging sexual abuse by priests.

Jon David Couzens filed his lawsuit in 2011 alleging he was repeatedly molested by Monsignor Thomas O’Brien three decades ago and the diocese took no action to protect him, The Kansas City Star (https://bit.ly/1yDogej ) reported. He had been seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and an undisclosed amount of punitive damages, far more than what he will receive under the $9.95 million deal announced Tuesday.

“Even though mine is just one of 30 lawsuits, this gives the other victims a chance to be free and be able to speak about it,” Couzens said. “Not just these 30 victims, but those who haven’t had a voice.”

The 30 lawsuits were filed from September 2010 through February 2014 involving 13 current and former priests, several of whom have died. The alleged sexual abuse happened between 1963 and 1987.

A dozen of those lawsuits contained allegations against O’Brien, who died last October at age 87.

“The diocese sincerely hopes that this settlement can bring about some closure to those hurt by abuse in the past,” the diocese said in a statement.

Insurers will cover a large portion of the settlement, with the diocese picking up the balance, the diocese said.

Couzens’ lawsuit was the most visible of the 30 settled cases and the first go to trial in the Kansas City area.

Couzens accused O’Brien of sexually abusing him and three other boys in the early 1980s when they were serving as altar boys at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Independence. The diocese was told repeatedly that O’Brien was a danger to children but failed to prevent the abuse, Couzens said.

The diocese contended no credible evidence existed to prove those allegations.

It’s the second time in six years the diocese has settled a large group of lawsuits in a single agreement. In 2008, it announced a $10 million settlement with dozens of victims who alleged abuse by 12 priests going back decades.


Information from: The Kansas City Star, https://www.kcstar.com

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