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Lawsuit Filed Against Fort Worth Catholic Diocese for Alleged Prior Sexual Abuse of A Seventh Grader

Photo of Brant Stogner

A Washington state man has filed suit against the Fort Worth Roman Catholic Diocese for the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of a priest while he was a student at Notre Dame Middle-High School in Wichita Falls. The victim alleges that his seventh grade history teacher, the late Father John Sutton, repeatedly abused him during school hours beginning in 1990. In order to keep the victim from reporting the abuse to the authorities, Sutton repeatedly threatened the victim and lied to him, telling him that the abuse was a "penance" for the victim's sins.

The victim, identified in the lawsuit as "John Doe," alleges that the diocese knew or should have known that Sutton had a psycho-sexual disorder that made him unfit to be a teacher of adolescent boys. By hiring Sutton as a teacher, the diocese gave Sutton the position, power, opportunity and means to sexually molest young boys, as he did the victim. The lawsuit alleges that had the diocese and school failed to investigate Sutton before hiring him and placing in a position of power where he could have nearly unfettered access to children.

Current state law requires certain professionals to report suspected child to law enforcement. Unfortunately, when the victim did report this abuse to a school counselor in 1992, the school then accused the victim of selling drugs, causing him to drop out of school, and then the diocese transferred Sutton to another parish. No report was ever filed with law enforcement, despite state law requiring it.

More than twenty years after being sexually abused, the victim was hospitalized from a nervous breakdown. He continues to suffer from panic attacks to this day. Victims of sexual abuse, especially children, often struggle with years of therapy in an effort to reclaim a normal life. In many situations, recovery of compensatory damages in a lawsuit may not be limited to just the abuser. People and organizations that put child molesters in positions of power can also be held responsible.

If you or someone you know may have been sexually abused, harassed or molested, it is important to understand your right to recover. Contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend by calling 713-396-3964 or toll free at 1-800-594-4884 for a confidential consultation.

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