Saratoga County

Court allows suit against Catholic Charities in rape

A state appeals court has cleared the way for a negligence lawsuit to proceed against Catholic Chari

A state appeals court has cleared the way for a negligence lawsuit to proceed against Catholic Charities of the Diocese of New York for allegedly failing to protect a woman under its care from being raped.

The court ruled Thursday against Catholic Charities in dismissing attempts by the organization to include Washington County and the Fort Edward Victorian, a motel, in the negligence lawsuit. The victim filed the lawsuit in 2000.

The Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department, ruled that the victim’s lawsuit should proceed because Catholic Charities “undertook a duty to keep [the victim] safe with the knowledge that someone might be looking to harm her.”

The court further ruled that “questions of fact exist regarding whether the defendants fulfilled their duty and whether [the victim’s] injury was caused by any such breach of duty.”

Attorney William Nikas of Hudson Falls, who is representing the victim, said Friday the court’s decision allows him to proceed against Catholic Charities “for placing this women in an insecure environment.” He said the case is in the pretrial stage and he expects a trial to occur sometime in 2013.

Michael Costello, an attorney for Catholic Charities, said “the pleadings and the facts will clarify the liability issue and will show that Catholic Charities and its representative acted according to domestic violence protocols.”

Costello also said the appellate judges noted that the victim’s action in opening the motel door may raise a question about Catholic Charities’ liability.

Catholic Charities allegedly placed the woman into an unsecure facility in 1998, rather than a safe home, after she sought help to flee her abusive husband.

“What they did was allow this victim to make the decision on where to go, which was against their own protocols, instead of putting her in a safe home,” Nikas said. “They put her into a hotel room with no supervision, no lock, no phone and left her there. They told her not to leave but if you need help to call, but there was no phone.”

What occurred was that a man other than her husband came to the motel room and knocked. The victim, thinking it was the caseworker returning to help her, opened the door. Instead, the person at the door was a man who proceeded to rape her, according to court documents.

“A random person, with a prior history, raped her. He was prowling around and she was a sitting duck,” Nikas said.

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