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Judge To Rule In Breach Of Contract Suit Against Diocese

A Jackson County judge heard arguments Wednesday on whether the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph should pay a $1.1 million arbitration award for breach of contract in its ongoing litigation over clergy sex abuse.

The diocese contends the arbitrator, Kansas City lawyer Hollis Hanover, exceeded his authority when he made the award after finding the diocese had violated the terms of a $10 million settlement it reached with 47 sex abuse victims in 2008.

Under the terms of the settlement, the diocese pledged to adopt a variety of child safety measures.

Forty-four of the victims claimed the diocese and Bishop Robert Finn had breached those measures by failing to promptly inform authorities after it found child pornography on the laptop computer of a diocesan priest, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan.

Last September, a federal judge sentenced Ratigan to 50 years in prison.

Earlier this month, Hanover found that the diocese had breached five of the safety measures spelled out in the 2008 agreement. He awarded the plaintiffs $1.1 million atop the $10 million they were awarded in 2008.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Bryan E. Round will decide whether to let Hanover’s award stand or throw it out. Round did not say when he would rule.

Last month, the company that insured the diocese sued it, saying the company shouldn’t have to defend or pay damages in ongoing cases brought by more than a dozen plaintiffs alleging they were the victims of clergy sex abuse in the 1960s and 1970s.

The company, U.S. Fidelity and Guaranty Co., says the policies it underwrote only cover injuries that were the result of accidents, not injuries that were expected or intended on the part of the diocese.

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