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Frederick W. Keck
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$5,000,000.00 verdict in St. Clair County Court against the Catholic Diocese of Belleville for a parishioner (Plaintiff) that was sexually abused by a parish priest. By 1973, the Diocese of Belleville had learned that the priest in question, Reverend Raymond Kownacki, had abused and raped several children and had performed a forced abortion upon one of his female victims. Despite this knowledge, the Diocese transferred the priest to St. Theresa's Parish in Salem, IL where they held him out to the parishioners of St. Theresa's to be an appropriate priest and one who was safe to minister to the youth of the parish and have unsupervised conduct with minors. Shortly after being transferred to St. Theresa's, commencing in 1973 and continuing until 1978, the priest repeatedly sexually abused and assaulted the Plaintiff, then a minor. The priest was subsequently removed from St. Theresa's when allegations of abuse of another minor surfaced and the Diocese learned from that other victim that Plaintiff had likewise been a victim of sexual abuse by this priest. However, the Diocese never investigated that allegation and concealed from the Plaintiff its knowledge of his being a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of this priest. In addition, the Diocese concealed from the Plaintiff and other victims that it was aware that the priest was a serial sexual abuser and rapist and yet continued to allow him to act as a parish priest at numerous parishes throughout southern Illinois for over twenty years. In order to overcome the Defendant's Affirmative Defenses based upon the Statute of Repose or Statute of Limitations, the Plaintiff was required to and did establish that the Defendant fraudulently concealed from the Plaintiff his cause of action against it and that the Defendant was equitably estopped from asserting the Statute of Repose or Statute of Limitations defense based upon its knowledge and concealment of the abuse. The $5 Million verdict awarded the Plaintiff is believed to be one of the highest, if not the highest verdict, ever awarded a single Plaintiff in a sexual abuse case against a Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.