LDS Church Ordered to Pay Millions in Abuse Case

LDS Church Ordered to Pay Millions in Abuse Case

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Carole Mikita ReportingA jury in Seattle handed down the first settlement in that state in a sexual abuse case, 4.2-million dollars against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The case goes back to early 1990s. Jennifer and Ashley Cavalieri were abused by their stepfather in their home. He later confessed and served four years in jail. The lawsuit the sisters brought against the church claims their bishop did not report the crime and protect them.

Here's where the two sides separate. The Bishop says Jennifer never told him about the abuse when he met with her. Three friends testified for the bishop that Jennifer said she never told him. Jennifer testified that she did tell him. Her mother testified that the bishop should have told her about the abuse. The jury saw an email from Jennifer to a friend saying her mother knew about the abuse but was afraid of breaking up the family.

A couple of points of law here: Washington state law does not require clergy, including LDS bishops, to report child abuse. And in this particular case, the judge allowed the jury to call the bishop a social worker when he counseled the family. He works as an engineer for Boeing and has never had training in social work.

The church's attorney, Von Keetch, will appeal the verdict.

Von Keetch, LDS Church Attorney: "It is the first such situation across the country, really, where a church is being held liable for what happened within the confines of a home, as perpetrated by a stepfather against his stepdaughters. And we just think it's a miscarriage of justice to hold a church liable."

Keetch also says since 1995, the LDS church had a 24-hour nationwide help-line for its ecclesiastical leaders, like bishops, with both therapists and attorneys to advise them how to handle abuse cases.

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