Two lawsuits have been filed under a new Louisiana law that gives child abuse victims a chance to file suits for old claims.
The bill took effect Sunday, and allows victims of sex abuse to file suits against anyone involved for the next three years. If someone was convicted in connection with the abuse, there is no limit on filing suits. Previous law allowed people to file suit for ten years after their 18th birthday.
According to a release, the Lamothe firm has filed two lawsuits under the new law this week; the firm believes these are among the first filed in Louisiana under the new law.
“Given that most survivors do not come forward until much later in life, usually in their 50s, this law provides a much-needed path to justice,” said Frank E. Lamothe, III, who has spent his career representing sexual abuse victims. “This 3-year window is the only chance many of them will have to be heard.”
One suit was filed in federal court in New Orleans against Brothers of the Holy Cross Schools by John Lousteau, who says he was sexually abused by a clergy member employed at the school when he was living in the dorms there. Lousteau alleges in the suit that he was sexually abused at Holy Cross in the late 1960s, when he was 10 or 11 years old.
In early 2020, Lousteau sought representation from Lamothe, divulging the details of his trauma for the first time in his life. He agreed in good faith to be interviewed by the Holy Cross’ legal counsel who had indicated the order would pay for treatment from a therapist of Lousteau’s choosing, the suit alleges.
During the interview, Holy Cross’s counsel repeatedly stated that he found Lousteau’s claims to be credible, and confirmed the dates of the clergy member’s employment and resignation matched. Holy Cross’s counsel later interviewed Lousteau’s 90-year-old father. The defense counsel even said Holy Cross had received several calls from previous years where the caller informed Holy Cross that they believed Lousteau had been abused, the suit alleges.
After the interview, Holy Cross’ counsel stopped responding to Lamothe’s correspondence, including numerous letters, phone calls and repeated emails informing them of his choice of therapist. No payment was offered to facilitate the therapy, the suit alleges.
“Our client was retraumatized by the Brothers after he had the courage to come forward, which only perpetuated the untold psychological and emotional damage he had already suffered,” said Lamothe trial attorney Kristi S. Schubert, who is also representing Lousteau. “And because of the statute of limitations, John had no recourse even though the order had promised to make restitution but failed to follow through. It was a horrible situation that, thankfully, can now be addressed due to the new law.”
From court records available online, it does not appear the Congregation has been served with the lawsuit as of Wednesday. We've reached out to the Congregation for a comment.
The firm also filed suit in Orleans Parish state court on behalf of Richard Lane Woolley, who says he was abused as a child by Father Valerie Pullman while he was a priest at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church in Lake Arthur. Pullman also was Woolley's elementary school religion teacher at St. Maria Goretti Catholic School. At the time of the alleged abuse, Woolley was a 12-year-old altar boy at the church, the suit alleges.
Father Pullman allegedly abused Woolley at the Fontainebleau hotel in New Orleans. Woolley reported the abuse shortly afterward to Pullman's superior who then transferred Pullman to another church and took no further corrective action, the suit alleges.
“Survivors of child sexual abuse have been fighting for some semblance of accountability for decades, and thanks to this historic legislation, they’ll finally have their chance,” said Michael Pfau, an attorney advocate for victims of childhood sexual abuse with PCVA Law. “Survivors in Louisiana today finally have an opportunity to seek justice, right decades-old wrongs and hold their abusers and the institutions who enabled them accountable.”
We've reached out to the Diocese to see if they have any comment on the lawsuit.