New Clergy Sex Abuse Lawsuits

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(ABC 6 News) – New court filings name the Diocese of Winona-Rochester as a defendant, as well as schools and parishes in Rochester, Winona and Mankato.

They stem from a $28 million settlement reached between the Diocese, the victims and insurance companies in 2021.

For more than 30 years attorney Jeff Anderson has worked for victims of clergy sex abuse.

In 2014 he deposed Father Thomas Adamson, a former priest in Rochester and the Diocese of Winona. Adamson admitted in that deposition to abusing several children on several occasions. He is one of 19 priests within the Diocese who’ve been accused of sexual abuse dating back to the 1970s.

“There is one insurance company, one very large insurance company that refused to participate and or pay,” said Anderson. So now he’s working with victims who haven’t been compensated.

According to the lawsuits, the alleged victims were between 10-16 years old at the time of the abuse, which happened between 1968 and 1974 at churches and schools including St. Mary’s in Winona, the Church of Holy Trinity in Rollingstone, Lourdes High School in Rochester and the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Mankato.

“There is a global problem with sexual abuse and when it comes to the Catholic clerical culture,” said Anderson.

The lawsuits accuse Father Damien Seminary, Father Leland Smith and Father Joseph Cashman of sexually abusing minors. They also allege the defendants “knew or should have known” that the priests named were a danger to children before the abuse occurred.

ABC 6 News reached out to the Diocese for a statement and they said:

“We have become aware that litigation has been initiated related to sexual abuse claims stemming from the 1970s and various entities within the Diocese of Winona-Rochester. This litigation was expected and contemplated in the Diocesan bankruptcy case. The Diocese of Winona-Rochester has completed its financial obligations resulting from bankruptcy and is committed to ensuring a safe environment for staff and all of those entrusted to its care. We cannot comment further on pending litigation at this time.”

Anderson says he just wants to make sure those who were victimized are compensated. He says they deserve so much more.

“I draw from the pain and the sorrow and the anguish of the survivors, and appreciation for the magnitude of what sexual trauma does,” said Anderson.

Anderson and his firm wouldn’t say if more lawsuits would be filed or how long it will take to get these settled. Each victim is asking for at least $50,000.

The insurance company, U.S. Fire, isn’t named in the lawsuits due a Minnesota law prohibited insurance companies from being named as a defendant unless the plaintiff if insured by them. So Anderson is taking up his cases with the church.