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A Vermont jury awarded $2.2 million to a former alter boy as compensation for abuse he suffered in the late 1970s at the hands of a rogue priest. The plaintiff, whose real name was concealed to protect his identity, claimed that Rev. Edward Pacquette had fondled him some 20 to 25 times over a two-year span from 1976 to 1978. The jury agreed, and found that the state Catholic diocese had failed to protect the young man.

The $2.2 million dollar award is made up entirely of compensatory damages. In other words, the amount is intended to put the plaintiff into the position he would be had he not been injured by the defendant’s conduct. The largest verdict against the Catholic church in Vermont was $8.7 million, but that was primarily composed of punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish and discourage particularly egregious behavior.

Notably, this is not the first verdict rendered against Rev. Pacquette.

Generally, a claim based on conduct that occurred so long ago will be barred by statutes of limitations. However, under certain narrow exceptions, individuals can commence a lawsuit that would otherwise be time barred. Although the rules vary from state to state, the plaintiff generally must show that something prevented him or her from realizing that he or she could assert a legal claim. In the Vermont case, the jury concluded that the victim did not discover that he had a cause of action until 2004 or 2005.

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