Update (January 13, 2011): Jeff Anderson, St. Paul attorney, crusader for abuse victims, and scourge of the Catholic Church goes transatlantic, establishing a beachhead in London.
Original post (August 31, 2010): If an entity runs a school in which it employs someone the entity has reason to believe may be a pedophile, and the entity does not disclose this fact to parents, and the entity allows that pedophile to have unsupervised access to minor children, has the entity committed fraud by omission? Has the entity, by saying nothing, essentially affirmatively represented that its employee is NOT a pedophile (or that he is fit, so far as they know, to be alone with their children)?
For silence to amount to fraud, there must be a “legal or equitable obligation to communicate to the other,” the Minnesota Court of Appeals noted this week in a case brought by Jeff Anderson against the Diocese of New Ulm on behalf of alleged abuse victims. And the Court went on to rule that no such obligation had been alleged, affirming summary judgment in favor of the Diocese.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals (Judges Larkin, Wright, and Peterson, in an opinion by Larkin) refused to go as far as the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a similar case.
While clearly sympathetic to plaintiffs’ claims, the Court concluded that any remedy the plaintiffs might have would have to be through the Minnesota Supreme Court or the legislature, not through the intermediate appellate court.