Maine court rejects ‘charitable immunity’

Posted July 07, 2009, at 5:10 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine’s supreme court has ruled against the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland in a sex-abuse case that raised an issue of immunity.

In a 5-2 decision, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the bishop is not entitled to use the defense of charitable immunity for intentional acts. William Picher has claimed he was abused by a priest in Augusta in the 1980s. He says the priest’s supervisors knew about former Rev. Raymond Melville’s tendencies but did nothing to stop the abuse.

The church claimed protection by charitable immunity. The supreme court affirmed the availability of defense of charitable immunity for negligent actions, but said that defense doesn’t apply for intentional actions.

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