Posted On: August 23, 2006

Diocese Named In Sex-Abuse Lawsuit - Our Successes

The Herald News
Tuesday, December 22, 1998

A former altar boy at St. Mary's Church in Park Forest filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Joliet on Monday alleging that a priest sexually molested him in 1980.

J. K., now 34, and living in Vernon Hills claims in the suit that the Rev. Richard Ruffalo, who died nearly two years ago, had sexually abused him between March and June, 1980.

The suit was filed in Cook County against the diocese and its trust as well as Bishop Joseph Imesch and St. Mary's Catholic Church in Park Forest. J.K. is seeking damages in excess of $100,000.

"In as much as the priest in question died in February of 1997, the diocese is unable to make any specific response. In addition, it is a matter of policy that the diocese does not offer public comments on any pending lawsuits. However, we are certainly concerned about J.K.' welfare," Sister Judith Davies, chancellor of the diocese, said in a written statement.

Ruffalo had worked in the diocese many years and served in various parishes including St. Raymond's and Holy Cross in Joliet and St. Mary's in Park Forest. When he died a news story at the time indicated that many of his former students and colleagues attended the funeral service.

J.K.'s attorney, Joseph Klest, acknowledged that some may see the suit as the defamation of someone who cannot defend his reputation. But Klest said it wasn't until J.K. went into therapy in February, 1997, that he realized many of his problems related to the sexual abuse that occurred to him when he was a young teen.

"He was willing to put his name on it," Klest said, referring to the lawsuit. Some people need to fight back."

Klest also noted that the statute of limitations likely will be an issue raised by the diocese. However, he noted that the law states suits may be filed "two years from when he knew or should have known he was abused" and that the abuse was the cause of the problems.

Klest said that as a result of therapy, J.K. had come to realize that the sexual abuse was behind many of his problems. The lawsuit claims that J.K. became a drug, alcohol and gambling addict as a result of the sexual abuse. Klest noted that J.K. is now getting his life together, is married with a family and has a job.

J.K. indicated in the suit that he was being groomed for the priesthood and went on trips with clergy to various locales. On one trip J.K. maintains he saw a priest other than Ruffalo attempt to molest another boy in a hot tub in Las Vegas.

The suit also maintains that the bishop and specific priests should have known of the abuse and had a responsibility to stop it.

Various suits have been filed in recent years alleging sexual abuse by priests in the Joliet Diocese. Some have been settled or dismissed and others are still pending in court.

No court date has been scheduled in J.K.'s suit. The diocese likely will have a chance to file its response in writing before a hearing is scheduled.

Posted On: August 19, 2006

Case Will Test Statute Of Limitations On Sex Charges - Our Successes

Chicago Tribune
Wednesday, January 13, 1999

Two women from Aurora say they were molested when they were young girls by a Roman Catholic brother formerly with the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, a mission in Aurora.

Do they have a right to sue for damages two or three decades after the alleged abuse occurred?

That is a question Brother Richard Kuhl wants the Illinois Supreme Court to answer.

Attorneys for Kuhl late last week filed an affidavit indicating their intent to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court a ruling by the Illinois Appellate Court reinstating a civil lawsuit brought against Kuhl by the women in Kane County Circuit Court.

Kuhl, 72, has not been charged with a crime.

Since the civil allegations of sexual molestation were leveled against him, he has been transferred to a mission in Center Valley, PA.

The two women, now 34 and 32, filed separate lawsuits against Kuhl in 1996, alleging that he molested them and caused them psychological damage. The 32-year-old woman alleged that Kuhl molested her on and off from the time she was 10 until she was 15.

The 34-year-old woman alleged the abuse occurred over a seven-year period beginning when she was 5.

A Kane County Circuit judge dismissed the lawsuits in 1997, saying the women's claims had expired under the statute of limitations.

But in a ruling issued last month, the 2nd District Appellate Court reinstated their cases. The court, which hears appeals from throughout northern Illinois except those from Cook County, ruled a 1991 law that extended the statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases makes the women's lawsuit timely.

In June, the 2nd District reinstated another case against Kuhl brought by yet another woman, for similar reasons.

Both rulings not only reversed the circuit judge's decision but seemed to conflict with the 2nd District's earlier interpretation of the statute of limitations question.

In a 1996 ruling, the 2nd District Appellate Court interpreted existing laws as mandating that the statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases begins when a victim reaches 18, and ends when they turn 20.

Appeals courts in other jurisdictions had ruled differently, applying a common law theory to extend the statute of limitations.

Recognizing that sometimes victims of childhood sexual abuse recall the abuse years later it takes place, the common law, which was made into a state law in 1991, gives victims two years from the time they remember they were abused to bring a claim.

In theory, the law allows people of any age to bring an action for damages against their alleged abuser.

Lawyers for Kuhl said they hope the Illinois Supreme Court could clarify exactly when the statute of limitation expires. Can the 1991 law extending the statute of limitations apply to victims who turned 20 before 1991?

"We need to clarify what the rule is in Illinois," said Julie Trester, one of the lawyers representing Kuhl. "The Supreme Court takes cases to provide guidance on issues of importance, and this is an issue of great importance to a number of courts in Illinois."

Joseph Klest, the attorney representing a total of five women in claims of sexual abuse against Kuhl, applauded the appeal's court ruling.

"Victims of childhood sexual abuse at age 18 and 19 do not draw the connection between what's wrong in their lives and the sexual abuse [they endured]," Klest said. "I've probably consulted with 80 or 90 victims of childhood sexual abuse who were investigating whether there was anything they could do about it. Less than 10 of them were under the age of 28. For whatever reason, persons in their late 20s and early teens don't deal with this or know how to deal with it."

Posted On: August 8, 2006

$3.2 Million Kidney Failure Settlment - Our Successes

Friday, September 14, 2001

In Circuit Court Cook County Circuit Judge Daniel M. Locallo, on Monday approved a $3,215,000 settlement in the case of a woman who claimed her kidneys failed because of medical malpractice.

C.H. had been prescribed lithium, which is potentially harmful to the kidneys. Her kidneys eventually failed, and she is currently on dialysis awaiting a transplant. The plaintiff's attorney, Joseph G. Klest of Schaumburg, claimed the prescribing doctor, John Hanni, failed to properly monitor C.H's kidney function. He also said her internist, Dr. Charles Lynn, did not report results of blood tests that could have indicated there was a problem with her kidneys.

John G. Langhenry III of Mangan, Langhenry, Gillen & Lundquist said Hanni, who is now deceased, denied liability in the matter and said the settlement was a business decision. Lynn was represented by Alan J. Schumacher of Pretzel & Stouffer Chtd., who also said his client did not admit liability. Alice K. Kush of Hinshaw & Culbertson represented Lynn's employer, Stratford Family Physicians. She was not available for comment Friday morning. C.H. v. David Hanni, executor of the Estate of John Hanni, deceased, et al., No. 98 L 6158

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