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Judge denies archdiocese's motion to dismiss clergy abuse lawsuit

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A Ramsey County judge Monday denied a request from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to dismiss a clergy sex abuse lawsuit against it.

Judge John Van de North said the plaintiff in the case, who is identified as Doe 1, "deserves his day in court on this important case," the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

Doe 1 sued the archdiocese, the Diocese of Winona and the Rev. Thomas Adamson last year, claiming Adamson sexually abused him in the 1970s when he was an altar boy and Adamson was a priest at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in St. Paul Park.

The lawsuit argues the archdiocese and the Diocese of Winona created a public nuisance by keeping under wraps its documents related to priest abuse, and it claims that church leaders were negligent in that their actions continued to jeopardize the safety of children.

Van de North ruled that the plaintiff's claims of negligence by the diocese and archdiocese should be decided by the jury.

But the judge left open for now the "public nuisance" claim, saying he would rule on that issue in a few weeks after the archdiocese turns over more documentation that was requested by the plaintiff, according to the Pioneer Press.

The lawsuit alleges that church officials created a public nuisance by allowing abusive priests to remain active and concealing information about their misconduct from the public.

This is the first time the "public nuisance" argument has been used in clergy abuse cases. It's also the claim that has required the archdiocese to release tens of thousands of pages of church documents about alleged abusers, and required the depositions of several top church officials including Archbishop John Nienstedt and his predecessor, Harry Flynn, the Star Tribune reports.

Van de North is one of the few judges who have allowed the nuisance claim to go forward in a clergy abuse case; public nuisance claims have historically been used only by governmental entities, according to the Pioneer Press.

For individuals to sue for public nuisance, the Minnesota Supreme Court has held that they must allege a "special or peculiar injury." Whether Doe 1 suffered such injury is the question the judge will decide within a few weeks.

A trial date has been set for Sept. 22.

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