Posted: February 5, 2021

Persistence. It is what makes winning cases, and winning law firms.

This case involved alleged sexual abuse by a priest that occurred in 1971. The victim was 14 years old when a priest from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia took the child overnight to the beach, to a house in Margate City, N.J. 

Once there, the boy, named only as T.D. in a lawsuit, was plied with alcohol, shown pornography, and sexually assaulted. Assaults continued over the next several months after the teenager was returned to Pennsylvania. The priest, Michael McCarthy, was accused of also having taken other teenage boys from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on overnight trips to the Jersey Shore. He was defrocked in 2005.  

Although the alleged crimes occurred decades ago, civil suits were permitted under new legislation that created a “window” during which victims of sexual abuse may bring claims against their abusers and the Catholic Church.

Kline & Specter attorneys filed such a suit in the T.D. case in New Jersey against not only the priest but also the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The archdiocese sought to have the case dismissed on a claim that New Jersey courts lacked the jurisdiction to decide the matter and that the archdiocese was not responsible for the actions of McCarthy for jurisdictional purposes because his actions fell beyond the scope of his employment. And the archdiocese won those claims, with New Jersey Superior Court, Law Division, dismissing the suit.

But the plaintiff’s attorneys appealed, arguing that jurisdiction was proper and that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was a responsible party, opining that the priest was able to take the child unsupervised because of his employment with the archdiocese and the trust associated with his office.

Recently, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court vacated the lower court’s dismissal order and remanded the case for further jurisdictional discovery. The lawsuit, thus, will continue, even though the alleged abuse occurred nearly 50 years ago and McCarthy is now 83 years old.

“We are heartened by the Appellate Division’s decision to vacate the underlying order and remand for discovery on the archdiocese’s responsibility for the actions of the archdiocesan priest who abused T.D. during a relationship created within the pastoral and counseling work that was part of the priest’s job. The archdiocese should be found responsible for its agent’s actions for jurisdictional purposes, the same as for liability purposes,” said Kline & Specter’s David Inscho, lead attorney for the plaintiff.

In a previous case, Inscho worked with Tom Kline to achieve the largest-ever settlement against the Philadelphia archdiocese in a case involving the sexual abuse of a child by a pedophile priest. The settlement amount was confidential.

Learn more about sexual abuse by priests and what you or a loved one can do if victimized by a member of the clergy.