Diocese of San Diego

2020 Law Opens Door for New Lawsuits Against Catholic Diocese

AB 218 lifts the statute of limitations for victims of sexual assault. Twenty lawsuits were filed on the first day the law went into effect.

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A San Diego law firm says it plans to file 125 new sexual abuse lawsuits against the Catholic Church and Diocese of San Diego as a result of a new state law that went into effect on Jan. 1.

Assembly Bill 218 expands the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual assault and provides a three-year window for the revival of new claims.

"This is only the beginning. We have another 60 or so cases that will be filed over the course of the next 60 to 90 days," said attorney Irwin Zalkin.

Zalkin filed the first group of 20 lawsuits Thursday against various San Diego parishes and the Diocese of San Diego.

At a news conference announcing the lawsuits, four alleged victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests were present.

"I'm here for all of the victims that were destroyed. They'll never get back what was taken from them," said victim Edward Ortega.

Ortega, 72, says he was sexually assaulted over a three-year period by a priest at St. Jude's Catholic Church in Southcrest when he was 11 years old.

Kevin Eckery, Vice Chancellor and spokesperson for the Diocese of San Diego released the following statement:

While we can’t respond to any specifics involved in these lawsuits, five of the six men mentioned in today’s news conference are known sexual predators whose names have been published on our website. All of the men are dead. Two of them belong to Catholic religious orders (Koerner and Marron) and were not San Diego diocesan priests. A sixth, Alexander Pinter, came from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and was briefly in San Diego in the early 60’s, but eventually moved to the Diocese of Oakland. Both dioceses have published Pinter’s name on their list of accused priests, but no complaint about Pinter was ever received in the Diocese of San Diego.

“Regardless of the legal issues involved, we have a moral obligation to provide assistance to any victim-survivor of that abuse and we would urge their attorney to contact us so that counseling can be arranged at our expense. There are no prior conditions and the offer of counseling stands regardless of any lawsuit against the diocese.

“The sexual abuse of minors is evil, regardless of when it happens, but as a result of various reforms in 2002 and earlier, including mandatory Safe Environment training for clergy and all church workers, annual age-appropriate safety training for students in Catholic schools and religious education, enhanced criminal background checks and enhanced awareness and vigilance, no new incidents of abuse have been reported to the diocese in nearly two decades.

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