December 18, 2008

Vermont Jury Awards $3.4 Million in Punitive Damages in Priest Abuse Case

The Barre Montpelier Times Argus is reporting that a jury was awarded $192,500 in compensatory damages and $3.4 million in punitive damages to a plaintiff who was molested by a priest in 1977, when the plaintiff was an 11-year-old altar boy. That's a ratio of nearly 18-to-1. If ever there were a case in which the extremely despicable nature of the conduct justifies a ratio beyond the single-digit range, this appears to be it. This is the second major punitive damages award of the year against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Vermont, which is appealing a $8.7 million verdict awarded in May. The same priest was involved in both cases, and is involved in 19 more pending cases. According to the Argus story, the diocese has dismissed the priest from the diocese but has not stripped him of his priesthood.