An arbitrator has ordered the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph to pay $1.1 million for failing to adhere to settlement guidelines from a 2008 sexual abuse case.
The settlement in James G. Walsh III et al. v. the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Bishop Robert Finn was the first of its kind, attorneys told Missouri Lawyers Weekly at the time, because in addition to its $10 million price tag, the settlement outlined reform for the diocese’s handling of claims of sexual abuse. Among other stipulations, the settlement required the diocese to report all claims of abuse to law enforcement at the request of the victim or other parties.
Compliance was called into question in the case of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, who was accused in 2010 of possession of so-called “up-skirt” photos and photos of nude underage girls.
The plaintiffs contended that the diocese, specifically Bishop Robert Finn, was made aware of Ratigan’s actions more than once. Instead of reporting Ratigan to law enforcement, arbitrator Hollis Hanover found that Finn consulted with a police officer who was also a member of the Diocese Independent Review Board as to whether one non-sexual image of a nude child constituted pornography.
Hanover found this, among other actions, to be obfuscation, and the subsequent restriction of Ratigan’s access to children and technology to be acknowledgement of his involvement with child porn. These actions directly violated the settlement terms, Hanover determined.
The diocese declined to comment Tuesday but has filed a motion to vacate the order, stating that Hanover has exceeded his authority in awarding monetary damages.
Attorney for the plaintiffs could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.
Damages awarded for breach of contract totaled $650,000, with attorneys fees awarded totaling $450,000.
$1.1 million arbitration order
Breach of contract
Breakdown: Damages awarded for breach of contract totaled $650,000, attorneys’ fees totaling $450,000.
Venue: Jackson County Circuit Court
Case number/date: 1116-CV29191/April 11, 2014
Arbitrator: Hollis Hanover
Caption: James (Casey) Walsh III, William Prather, Robert Bates, Thomas Clossick, Ronald Garrens, Katherine Goodnow, Kevin Higgins, Michael Hunter, Kenneth P. Landes, Tony Padilla, John Phinney, Chris Quarles, Teresa White, Craig Wilkerson, John Doe, et al. v. The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Bishop Robert Finn.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys: Rebecca Randles and Sarah Brown, Randles, Mata & Brown, Kansas City
Defendants’ attorneys: Spencer Joseph Brown and Mimi Doherty, Deacy & Deacy, Kansas City; Jonathan Haden, Mara Halpert Cohara and David Frye, Lathrop & Gage, Kansas City