Court Allows Norwich Sexual Assault Suit

Norwich Bulletin
July 18, 2006

Hartford -- The state Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for a lawsuit against the Norwich Diocese. The lawsuit claims a priset sexually assaulted a boy more than 40 years ago.

The court ruled unanimously the lawsuit was filed within Connecticut's statute of limitations and can go forward.

A man identified in Supreme Court papers as David Doe claims he was sexually assaulted when he was 9 and 10, in 1962 and 1963, by the Rev. Bernard Bissonnette.

He sued in 2002, at age 49, for physical and emotional injuries he claims to have sustained.

Bissonnette, a former priest at St. Mary Church in Putnam, was defrocked May 20, 2005.

The Diocese has looked into claims he allegedly molested several boys at the parish in the 1960s.

Monday's ruling involves two issues -- a 1972 law that changed the legal age of adulthood from 21 to 18, and the 30-year statute of limitations to sue for child sexual assault.

A Hartford judge had previously thrown out the lawsuit because the accuser filed it in September 2002 -- 30 years after turning 19. Doe's lawyer, Karen Clark , said memories of the alleged assaults "came to light for him" in 2000 or 2001.

In Monday's ruling, the Supreme Court said Bissonnette's accuser could sue because he was 19 when the law changed the definition of an adult in October 1972.

Clark said the courts are interpreting the statute of limitations period as the legislature intended.

"Everyone views this kind of abuse as absolutely terrible, and the courts are going to interpret the legislature's words expansively," she said.

A call was placed seeking comment from the lawyer for the diocese.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.