A San Jose man has filed the first lawsuit under new California law that extends the statute of limitations and offers a three-year window for sexual abuse survivors to sue regardless of when the misconduct happened.
In a complaint filed at the start of the new year, when AB 218 took effect, James Brogan claims Jesuit clergyman William Farrington sexually assaulted him during his freshman year at Bellarmine College Preparatory in the 1960s.
“It’s touched on every single aspect if my life,” Brogan said at a Wednesday press conference hosted by Jeff Anderson & Associates, the law firm representing his case. “You know? And it’s hard to feel like a survivor when I’m still suffering.”
Under AB 218, also known as the Child Victim’s Act, survivors are entitled to triple the damages if an organization s proven to have tried covering up suspected abuse.
Although AB 218 allows victims to sue as anonymous plaintiffs, Brogan chose to use his name in his civil suit against the private high school, the Archdiocese of San Jose and the Society of Jesus. Anderson & Associates founder Jeff Anderson commended Brogan for his bravery in going public and applauded the new California law that gave him a chance to pursue litigation decades after the alleged abuse.
“This law … gives these survivors a chance to have a voice, gives them a chance to take action, gives them a chance to get help, hope and healing and gives them a chance to protect other kids in the future,” Anderson told reporters earlier this week.
Per the lawsuit filed this week, Farrington targeted, groomed and assaulted at least two Bellarmine students during his tenure at the parochial school in the 1960s and ‘70s. He was removed from the ministry decades later, in 2002, after being accused of abuse by at least a half-dozen people and has reportedly lived at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos ever since. According to NBC Bay Area, the 78-year-old lives under a “safety plan” that requires supervised visits and places limitations on travel.
Bellarmine school administrators referred requests for comment to the Jesuit West Province. A Jesuit West spokeswoman, in turn, steered San Jose Inside toward a December 2018 letter released by Father Scott Santarosa along with a list of clergy members credibly accused of sexual abuse.
“On behalf of the Society of Jesus, I apologize to the victims and families who put their trust in a Jesuit, only to have that trust so profoundly betrayed,” the year-old missive read. “It is inconceivable that someone entrusted with the pastoral care of a child could be capable of something so harmful. Yet, tragically, this is a part of our Jesuit history, a legacy we cannot ignore.”
Anderson said he works with scores of victims of childhood abuse in the Bay Area alone who can file lawsuits, confidentially or otherwise, now that the statute of limitations has been lifted. The lawyer urged other survivors to take advantage of the new law to pursue legal recourse and demanded full disclosure by the Diocese of San Jose about the identities, histories and current whereabouts of all clergy accused of sexual abuse.