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Hartford Catholic Diocese Settles Another Sexual Abuse Claim

October 17, 2016

ANDREW DENNEY, The Connecticut Law Tribune,

The Archdiocese of Hartford settled another claim of sexual abuse against one of its former priests, this time settling for an undisclosed amount with a victim who claimed he was abused as a teenager in his own home.

The lawsuit, filed in September 2014, was settled after limited discovery was completed, but before pleadings were closed and before a single deposition was taken. That spared the victim "extreme emotional distress and burden that would have come with being deposed and reliving his painful experiences," according to a statement from the victim's attorney, Ernest Teitell, a partner at Silver Golub & Teitell.

"However, we are not celebrating this outcome because when you represent a victim of childhood sexual abuse, there are no true victories, but only important steps in the road to the victim's recovery," Teitell said. "By bringing this case the plaintiff wanted to show other abuse survivors that they do not have to keep their own victimizations secret."

While the victim's attorneys would not disclose the settlement amount, in March they made a $950,000 offer to the archdiocese on his behalf, according to court papers. The victim, identified in court papers as John Doe, alleged that between October 2000 and March 2001, Edward Tissera, a priest at the archdiocese, repeatedly sexually assaulted, battered and abused him in his own bedroom while making visits to Doe's home for "spiritual guidance and counseling," according to Doe's complaint. He was 13 years old at the time.

Doe said the abuse caused him to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, severe emotional distress and difficulties forming and maintaining relationships.

Doe sued both Tissera and the Hartford Roman Catholic Diocesan Corp. claiming negligent hiring and retention on the part of the archdiocese, as well as negligent supervision, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Doe claimed that the archdiocese was responsible for institutional failures that created an environment that made it possible for Tissera to abuse him. This included failing to train and educate priests and preventing sexual abuse.

Hartford Superior Court Judge Antonio Robaina mediated over the settlement in the case, Doe v. Tissera.

Marco Allocca, an associate with Silver Golub & Teitell, also represented Doe.

Walter Hampton Jr., a Canton solo attorney appeared for Tissera. He could not be reached for comment.

The archdiocese was represented by Cooney, Scully & Dowling partners John Sitarz, Paul Nowosadko and Lorinda Coon. The firm declined to comment.

Connecticut court records show Tissera pleaded guilty to fourth-degree misdemeanor sexual assault in 2012 for a case involving a separate victim younger than 18.

In 2005, the archdiocese agreed to pay a combined $22 million to 43 victims who said they were abused by priests.

The Associated Press reported in February that the archdiocese reached a $500,000 settlement with a victim who alleged that another priest beat and sexually abused him between 1985 and 1990.

The archdiocese also recently fought a court battle with Interstate Fire and Casualty Co., the church's insurance provider, for its failure to reimburse the church for settlement payments.

Between 2010 and 2012, the archdiocese paid more than $2 million across four settlements for lawsuits claiming sexual misconduct against minors by church leaders in the 1970s and 1980s. In 2012, after the church made several failed attempts to contact Interstate about the reimbursements, it sued the insurance company for breach of contract.

A federal judge ordered the company to pay $945,000 to the church in July.

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