A man who claimed he was sexually abused by a Catholic Priest almost 50 years ago has settled his High Court damages action for €350,000.
In his judgement on Friday, Mr Justice Garrett Simons approved the settlement of the personal injuries claim taken by the 60-year-old, who currently resides in the UK, against the Sacred Heart Missionary Education Trust and his alleged abuser.
The man claimed that while attending a secondary school operated by the trust in the 1970s, he was sexually abused by a priest who taught there.
The case was settled by the trust, without an admission of liability by either of the defendants. The action had been opposed on grounds including that the claim against the defendants was statue barred. The trust also argued that it was not vicariously liable for any actions allegedly committed by the priest.
The trust further claimed that the fact the man had been sexually abused by other persons not associated with the school had also to be taken into account. It argued that these abusers were “concurrent wrongdoers” and that his failure to pursue them had legal consequences.
Due to a medical condition which causes the man to struggle with his memory and attention, he cannot be identified for legal reasons. In his decision, the judge said that settlement had come before him because the man lacks the capacity to provide instructions in respect of his claim or manage his own affairs.
The man is currently detained at a mental health facility in England and the subject of various orders made by the English courts, the judge noted. As a result of his medical condition, which became problematic after he launched his personal injury action, his proceedings were amended and were eventually brought on his behalf by his ‘next friend’ which in this case was his sister.
In approving the settlement, Mr Justice Simons said that had the case gone to trial there was “a strong likelihood” the action would have been dismissed.
The judge said that it appeared that the claim was statute barred, and because of the plaintiff’s mental health he was not competent to provide sworn evidence in the proceedings.
Given the circumstances the settlement was an excellent one from the plaintiff’s perspective, the judge said, adding that there was no realistic prospect of the man getting a larger sum that what has been offered had the case gone to trial. The settlement, the judge directed, is to be paid to the English local authority charged with managing the man’s affairs.