California Jury Awards Nearly $1 Million to Catechism Teacher Who Said Priest Punched Her
COMPTON, Calif. March 10 — A jury awarded more than $950,000 to an instructor of Roman Catholic principles who accused a now-deceased priest of punching her during an argument over how to teach.
An attorney for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said Wednesday it would seek a new trial.
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The jury voted 9-3 Monday to award $952,819 to Maria Vega, 57, for emotional distress, defamation and battery, said her attorney, Victor George.
Vega said she was teaching catechism at St. Emydius Church in November 1999 when the Rev. Dennis O’Neil disagreed with the way she was teaching and punched her above the ear.
George said his client sued after the archdiocese refused to acknowledge or investigate her claim. Archdiocese spokeswoman Carolina Guevara countered: “We followed the appropriate procedures to address the situation.”
The case went to trial in October but was stopped after 20 days when the 60-year-old O’Neil died. A new trial began Nov. 10.
When he died, O’Neil was an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of San Bernardino.