Former priest named in new lawsuit, victim claims she was excluded from class action settlement

VIDEO: Former priest named in new lawsuit, victim claims she was excluded from settlement

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A former priest in the Diocese of Charleston is facing new allegations of sexual abuse in a lawsuit moved to federal court this month.

A woman, only referred to in court documents as Jane Doe 304, claims she was sexually abused multiple times by the late priest Frederick Hopwood.

The alleged abuse spanned from 1959 to 1962 when the woman was just a child, starting around the age of 8 years old.

Hopwood died in April 2017, but he has been at the center of several other lawsuits in recent years, and he was convicted in a 1994 case on a charge of a lewd act upon a child.

However, Jane Doe 304’s lawsuit is related to a $12 million class action settlement paid out to victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests, including Hopwood.

The woman, who no longer lives in South Carolina, is suing church officials and attorneys for not being notified and allowed inclusion into the class-action suit against the Diocese of Charleston because it was closed to victims outside of South Carolina.

Court documents claim the Diocese of Charleston aided and abetted attorneys to “exclude essentially all victims who then resided out of state and that the written orders in the class action failed to secure the full relief for absent class members.”

The lawsuit also accuses attorneys and church officials of being aware the class members were “under-inclusive.”

“The Richter defendants were also aware that some abuse victims repressed memories of their childhood sexual abuse and in 2006 could reasonably be expected to not recall childhood abuse,” according to court documents. “In short, the class was known to be under-inclusive, and the defendants deliberately misrepresented to the trial court that absent class members later disclosed would receive relief, when in fact those absent members would get no relief.”

The lawsuit has been filed in federal court as a diversity breach-of-contract, a case occurring when a plaintiff claims the defendant(s) failed to fulfill the terms of a contract, according to www.legalbeagle.com.

A lawyer, representing the Bishop of Charleston and Robert Guglielmone as defendants, requested the case be moved to federal court because the money the woman is seeking could exceed $75,000.

Jane Doe 304 has requested a jury trial for her allegations of legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, and aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty.

The attorney representing Jane Doe 304 and representative with the Diocese of Charleston have not responded to requests for comment at this time.

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