X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
As the verdict in the clergy abuse case came in his client’s favor, Stockton attorney Larry Drivon turned around and shushed an outburst of glee from the audience. Yes, the jury said, the San Francisco Archdiocese knew or should have known Father Joseph Pritchard sexually abused young boys. But the case for damages had yet to be tried, and Drivon was mindful of that fact. For the next few minutes, the gray-bearded lawyer waited patiently as supporters of the plaintiff, Dennis Kavanaugh, filed out of the courtroom to celebrate and San Francisco Superior Court Judge John Munter spoke to the jury. Drivon waited until the jury left. Then, with Munter still ready to go, Drivon politely asked to be excused so he could spend a moment with his client. He turned, shook hands with opposing counsel, and retired to the witness room, where the normally straight-faced, all-business attorney hugged Kavanaugh and bawled like a baby. Drivon’s co-counsel, Minnesota attorney Jeff Anderson, said he’s not surprised at how quickly Drivon’s calm courtroom exterior melted away. “The sexually abused population is a very difficult population to work with because trust is such an issue,” Anderson said. “He works not from the head, but from the heart. You saw tears, and you saw hugs, and you saw a man who genuinely cares,” Anderson said. Among the dozens of prominent trial lawyers wrestling with 850 clergy abuse cases — consolidated into three groups around the state — this case became the first to nail a jury verdict. It isn’t his first such case, however. In 1998, Anderson went looking for a local attorney to help represent two brothers who claimed they were molested by a Stockton priest. He called Drivon, a well-respected trial attorney, and the two landed a $30 million verdict that was later reduced to $13 million. Drivon’s other work includes serving as special counsel to a California Senate committee investigating energy price gouging and securing a $295 million verdict in a sport utility vehicle rollover case, according to The Drivon Law Firm. The son of a Stockton judge who practices law with a brother and a stepson, Drivon is now part of an elite team of trial lawyers who represent more than half of the victims in the largest group of sex abuse claims in history. Last year, about 150 cases involving Northern California churches were carved out of more than 800 lawsuits filed statewide. The Northern California cases are known as the Clergy III cases, while the 140 cases consolidated in the San Diego and San Bernardino areas are called Clergy II and the more than 500 cases consolidated in the Los Angeles area are Clergy I. Settlement talks involving the Oakland diocese, part of Clergy III, were stagnant Friday. But Drivon’s victory last week is largely expected to put pressure on defendants to settle. In December, the Catholic Diocese of Orange County agreed to a $100 million settlement with 90 plaintiffs in the Clergy I cases, the largest settlement ever involving priests accused of sexual molestation. Insurers were ordered to pay half that amount, but some are putting up a fight. Kavanaugh sued the archbishop, alleging Pritchard had molested him during the early 1970s at St. Martin of Tours in San Jose. Pritchard died in 1988. The jury’s verdict found the church knew or should have known Pritchard committed sexual abuse before 1974. “Obviously, we’re disappointed,” said the church’s attorney, Paul Gaspari of San Francisco’s Tobin & Tobin. “We’ll just carry on with phase two and we’ll see how it ends up.” Munter said the second phase of the trial, in which damages will be decided, is expected to last five to seven days. Asked an hour after Friday’s verdict what message the jury’s decision sent to attorneys involved in the other clergy cases, Drivon, his tears dry, was back to business. “It’s sent a message,” he said, “that we’re halfway through the first case.”

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.