The Knights of Columbus, citing a statute of limitations, asked a judge to dismiss lawsuits by two men who say a youth leader sexually abused them decades ago.
The men sued the New Haven-based group in December and said a former leader of the Columbian Squires, the Knights' official youth program, abused them in Texas in the 1970s and 1980s. Their attorney has said the lawsuits appear to be the first against the Knights, the world's largest Catholic lay organization, to allege sexual abuse of children.
The Knights filed motions Monday in U.S. District Court in Hartford in which they asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuits. The lawsuits missed a deadline under Texas law, which allowed plaintiffs to file lawsuits within two years of turning 18, attorneys for the organization wrote.
Jeffrey Herman, attorney for the men, said his side will oppose the motion to dismiss and argue that Connecticut's more generous statute of limitations should apply.
A boy told Knights of Columbus officials in 1986 that he had been sexually abused by the leader, but the Knights concealed the report of abuse and intimidated the victim into not making the abuse public, one lawsuit alleges.
The Knights say the lawsuit fails to identify the boy who made the report, the names of the Knight officials who received it and how the organization concealed the report.
The Knights also rejected a claim that they were negligent in failing to prevent the abuse, saying the lawsuits failed to provide evidence that the organization should have known the leader posed a risk of harm.
Patrick Korten, senior vice president for the Knights, said in December that the organization vigorously denied the allegations. He said the organization acted quickly to remove the leader and referred the matter to police in Texas when officials first learned of the allegations in 2009.
Korten said the Knights established a youth-protection program in 2003 that includes background checks on all youth leader applicants.
Each lawsuit seeks more than $5 million in damages.
One of the victims, 49-year-old Jim Dennany, of Texas, identified himself in the lawsuit, while the other was filed as a John Doe. The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of sexual abuse, but Dennany's attorney has said he believes using his name will help protect other children from abuse.
Dennany said the abuse led to guilt, shame, self-blame, depression and chemical dependency.
The other man said he suffered chemical addictions, nightmares, depression and suicidal tendencies. The man also claimed the Knights of Columbus tried to trick him into signing papers in 2009 that would have prevented him from suing for damages over the alleged abuse.
The Knights deny that allegation, saying the man knew what he was signing.
The organization said there were nearly 28,000 Columbian Squires as of June.