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For week ended April 02, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 29Mar00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

LDS Church Settles West Virginia Child Abuse Lawsuit
(Mormon Lawsuit Settled Out of Court)
WVVA TV6 Bluefield WV (MSNBC) 28Mar00 N1
By Greg Burton: Salt Lake Tribune
Lawyer for the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints and Raleigh General Hospital have settled a child abuse case out of court.

BECKLEY, WEST VIRGINIA -- Lawyers for the LDS Church and for Raleigh General Hospital have agrreed to settle a $750 million child abuse lawsuit out of court. The lawsuit accused the Church and the hospital of failing to report a case of child sexual abuse by an LDS Church member. Trial in the case was to begin next week.

The case was settled for an undisclosed amount of money, according to Raleigh County Circuit Court Judge H. L. Kirkpatrick, who says that the hospital and the Church told him of the settlement late last week. The agreement will be presented for the Judge's approval on April 6th.

The lawsuit arose following the conviction of James Adams, who was an LDS Church member, of 37 counts of sexually abusing his son and daughter. Adams, who plead guilty, was sentenced to 130 years in prison. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of the children. It claims that LDS stake president Blair Meldrum knew about the abuse, but conspired with other Church officials, including Raleigh General Hospital Administrator Ken Holt, to keep the abuse secret. Adams worked for Holt at the hospital.

The LDS Church's counsel in the lawsuit, William E. Watson, said that all parties were satisfied with the settlement. "Raleigh General Hospital and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints specifically deny any wrongdoing or liability for the claims. From the outset, the church and the hospital have desired to assist the minor child, and this agreement provides the means to accomplish that objective. It also pays the expenses which she has incurred," said Watson in a statement released yesterday.

Patrick Nance, an attorney representing the children, agrees, "In the short run the settlement helps my client get some medical attention that she needs very badly. In the long run, I hope it makes the church more cautious in the future when it learns a child is being abused." He continued, "I would say the family is satisfied with the settlement. The church and hospital recognize things could have been done better, and that's what the family wanted all along."

But LDS Church spokesman Dale Bills says that the Church hasn't changed its training of clergy since the case was filed. "Our training efforts are extensive and ongoing." He says that the Church started training its local leaders in sexual abuse matters in the 1970s, and established a 24-hour hotline for local leaders to call for advice on how to handle the issues.

Watson said that the case doesn't change the Church's position, "There was no proof in this case that the church inappropriately dealt with abuse and that's why the case settled as it did. . . . The whole issue revolved around whether members of the clergy are obligated to keep confessions confidential." He says it is still clear that the Church must keep confessions confidential.

However, the case may not be over. Nance and co-counsel Michael Sullivan also represent Adams' son, who is now 19, and have notified the Church and the Hospital of the son's intent to file a lawsuit.

See also:

LDS Church, hospital settle child-abuse case out of court
Deseret News (AP) 28Mar00 N1


LDS Church to Settle Sexual-Abuse Lawsuit
Salt Lake Tribune 29Mar00 N1
By Greg Burton: Salt Lake Tribune


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