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Buffalo Diocese faces $300M lawsuit; woman charges abuse as O'Hara student

The case is said to be the first in WNY since the state's Child Victim's Act went into effect.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Diocese is now the target of a $300 million lawsuit, which is said to be the first in this area since the state's Child Victim's Act went into effect.

It involves a Niagara County woman who says she was sexually abused decades ago by a priest who taught at Cardinal O'Hara High School.

Noted Boston Attorney Mitchell Garabedian poses this question: "Where were the supervisors? ... For three years she was being sexually abused on a regular basis by this priest."

The question and claim are raised in a negligence lawsuit filed on behalf of 55 year old Gail Holler-Kennedy. She says her science teacher at Cardinal O'Hara High School abused her between 1978 and 1981. 

The abuser is identified as Rev. Mark Andrzejczuk, who died in 2011. He was a member of a Franciscan order, which along with its subsidiaries, is named in the suit against the Buffalo Diocese.

Garabedian says, "I've named many, many corporations in the complaint because the Diocese and Orders play these shell games with corporations, so my job was to get every link in the chain."

The lawsuit was co-filed by a New York City law firm. It also claims school officials under Diocese oversight failed to report abuse.

Garabedian says Andrzejcuk would write passes to excuse her from another teacher's class and then sexually assault her in an empty classroom. 

"Somebody must have noticed something, somewhere saying why is this priest spending so much time with this 14 to 17-year-old girl," he said.

The attorney also describes the impact on his client.

"She's felt unnecessary guilt and shame and trust issues. Alienation from the Catholic Church. Her belief in God has been tarnished ... severely damaged," he said

Garabedian says his client filed a claim with the Buffalo Diocese last year. he says it was rejected when they said she didn't meet their deadline. So now this new suit under the Child Victim's Act was filed before her 55th birthday to meet that law's deadline.

The Diocese declined to comment citing this litigation.

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