In a first-of-its-kind legal ruling, a Pennsylvania court has ruled that non-victims can move forward with lawsuits against the diocese of Pittsburgh.
Allegheny County Judge Christine A. Ward handed down the court ruling on Tuesday, accepting the plaintiffs’ argument that they have standing to sue the Pittsburgh diocese.
The plaintiffs are claiming that the Pittsburgh diocese, along with seven other Pennsylvania dioceses, have created “a public nuisance” by failing to report every allegation of child abuse insofar as not doing so potentially endangers their children. Public nuisance refers to a legal offense in which the injury or damage is suffered by or affects the public at large rather than an individual.
Benjamin Sweet, lawyer for the plaintiffs, noted the decision “is the first time a cause of action has been brought by a non-survivor member of the public and the first time a court has said that is a viable legal strategy, that a private citizen can compel the Church to prove it’s complying with the mandatory reporting law.”