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Church sued in molestation

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PORTLAND, Ore. — A lawsuit filed Wednesday seeks more than $120 million from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 12 victims it says were molested as children by a church member in the 1970s and 1980s.

Later damage claims could reach $12 billion.

The lawsuit seeks $10 million each for physical and emotional pain and dysfunction plus payment for psychological treatment and diminished earnings of at least $850,000 each.

It announces the intent of the plaintiffs to amend the suit to seek punitive damages of $1 billion each.

The 12 are identified only by initials in the lawsuit.

Portland attorney David Slader, who filed the lawsuit, said it involves the late Franklin Richard Curtis, who was convicted of repeatedly abusing Jeremiah Scott when Scott was 11.

Scott was 22 last fall when he settled out of court against the church for $3 million.

"The abuses were mostly in the Portland area; however, some abuse occurred in other states and some of the victims now live in other states," Slader said.

"Curtis' molestation of plaintiffs was malicious or the result of a reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm and a conscious indifference to the plaintiffs' health, safety and welfare," the suit charges.

The lawsuit charges two plaintiffs, identified only as BB and SR, told their bishop that Curtis had molested them and that the bishop "responded by humiliating and shaming BB and SR and blaming them for the abuse."

"With respect to the litigation, the church absolutely denies it has any responsibility for the conduct of Franklin Curtis," said Steve English, an attorney who handles the church's legal matters in Oregon.

"Mr. Curtis was never more than a member of the church. He was never a member of the clergy and he never held any other position of leadership.

"Some of these men were never members of the church. These activities took place off church premises involving some kind of obviously inappropriate activity between Mr. Curtis and these young boys. The church condemns child abuse of any kind."

Slader, who also represented Scott, said the LDS Church settled that case to avoid publicity.

Von Keetch, a church attorney, said the settlement was simply less expensive than a trial.

Under the agreement LDS Church officials did not accept blame for the abuse.

The Scott lawsuit said church officials knew Curtis was a pedophile but did not warn Scott's mother before she took Curtis into their home. Curtis, who died in 1995, was 87 at the time of the abuse. He was arrested and convicted of sex abuse and given probation in 1994.