“Joseph McLean, et al. v. U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops” — Nuisance Law Leveraged

Many have become all too familiar with public nuisance law through the class action lawsuits against former lead paint manufactures such as Sherwin-Williams.

Most recently, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the conviction of Sherwin-Williams and other defendants in the Santa Clara, California litigation. No surprise, two counties in Pennsylvania have also filed public nuisance lawsuits against Sherwin-Williams.

Public nuisance law has also been leveraged against utility companies and the pharmaceutical industry.

Obviously, lawyers are finding it a multi-purpose legal tool.

Earlier this month, lawyer Jeff Anderson had filed a public nuisance class action lawsuit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The filing date was November 13, 2018 and the venue was the United States District Court District of Minnesota.

Here is the media coverage.

And here is a copy of the complaint “Joseph McLean, et al. v. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.”

Essentially, the lawsuit contends that the silence of the bishops about the identity of the clergy sex offenders and the bishop’s activities to avoid scandal constitute the maintenance of a public hazard.

The question is: Will this legal strategy work?

It took years before public nuisance law, applied to lead paint, resulted in a conviction that survived the appeal process. In Rhode Island, the state supreme court threw out the whole case. Previously a jury had convicted Sherwin-Williams and two other defendants. I had blogged that trial.

This one against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops could also take years. During that process, the defendant could cave and settle. The terms of the settlement could include a legal contract about transparency.

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