New York man files suit alleging sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priest & youth leader

MT. PLEASANT, S.C. – (Dec. 2, 2020) – A 63-year-old New York man has filed a lawsuit alleging a former Roman Catholic priest sexually abused and raped him for several years in the early 1970s. Father Coleman Costello is named as a defendant in the suit, as are the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, Church of Saint Francis de Sales, and Saint Virgilius Roman Catholic Church. The Plaintiff, Evan Manderson, alleges the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and two Churches that Fr. Costello was assigned to, the Church of Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Virgilius Roman Catholic Church, failed to remove Fr. Costello, failed to report the abuse to law enforcement and allowed him to retire and remain in good standing with the Diocese, despite their knowledge he had sexually abused children.

The suit alleges that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn allowed Fr. Costello unfettered access to children while he trained to become a priest and while he conducted his outreach ministry in parishes and Catholic Charities programs. The suit also alleges that despite the Defendants’ knowledge of his propensities, Fr. Costello has not faced criminal prosecution or been listed on any sex offender registry.

The suit, filed Dec. 1, 2020 in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Queens, asserts claims of negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent supervision and failure to warn, negligent hiring, fraud and other claims under New York law. Motley Rice attorney Daniel Lapinski and Nye Stirling Hale & Miller LLP lawyer Benjamin J. Sweet (PA) represent Evan.

Child Victims Act

Evan was able to file his suit under the New York’s Child Victims Act, which allows victims of abuse to file civil claims against their abusers and the institutions that enabled their abuse, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred. Under the Act, a child sexual abuse victim may file a civil case regardless of: their age; how long ago the abuse occurred, whether their claim was barred under the former statute of limitations, whether the victim had a prior case dismissed because they waited too long to file it, whether they ever filed a Notice of Claim, or who the victim is suing: the abuser, organizations, or the people persons that should have acted to stop or prevent the abuse (like a school, an employer, or a place of worship). The deadline for filing suit under the Act is Aug. 14, 2021. After that date, New York Civil Practice Law and Rules, including applicable statute of limitations, will again apply to claims of child sexual abuse.

Evan attended St. Francis de Sales Catholic School and St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in third and fourth grade while living in foster care in Rockaway Beach, NY. He later attended St. Agnes School for Boys in Sparkill, N.Y., where he served as an altar boy. In the 9th grade, he became homeless and was homeless from ages 13-17 years old. It was during this period of homelessness that he met Fr. Costello who was running a Catholic outreach program for children at a recreation center in Rockaway Beach.

Evan alleges he was 13-years-old when Fr. Costello began abusing him, that Fr. Costello continued the abuse over the next two years, and stopped when he was 15-years-old. Evan had a strong Catholic faith, was taught that priests were God’s representatives, and were to be trusted. Evan also was especially vulnerable because he was homeless and alleges Fr. Costello promised to help and assist him using the resources available to him as a priest, but would sexually abuse Evan before providing any assistance.

The suit claims the Defendants knew that Fr. Costello engaged in grooming behavior with Evan and that Defendants had prior knowledge and awareness that Fr. Costello had previously sexually abused children. Evan alleges that although a young priest knew Fr. Costello was grooming and/or sexually abusing him, that priest never followed up to check on Evan’s safety and never notified law enforcement.

The suit alleges agents of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn not only knew of but also facilitated Costello’s abuse of children and also never reported him to law enforcement. Instead, Evan alleges the Diocese concealed Fr. Costello’s crimes against children, allowed him to remain in ministry and promoted him to assignment locations that further facilitated his ability to abuse. In February 2019, the Defendant Diocese admitted that it knew of 131 priests who worked in the Diocese who were accused of sexual misconduct with minors, Fr. Costello was not included. Seventy-seven of these priests died before the allegations against them became public and without facing any action from the Church or law enforcement.

“The extent of the alleged abuse Evan suffered is unconscionable and it will stay with him for the rest of his life,” said Motley Rice member attorney Daniel Lapinski. “Adding to his anguish is the knowledge that Fr. Costello’s alleged pattern of behavior was seemingly known and yet it appears nothing was done to protect Evan or other children. Thankfully, the Child Victims Act provides an avenue toward justice for my client and other victims. Without this and similar window laws around the country, countless claims of abuse would go unheard, perhaps forever,” said Lapinski.

Law firm Motley Rice represents abuse survivors in litigation filed under New York’s Child Victims Act that allege sexual abuse by clergy members that was suppressed by the Catholic Church. Motley Rice co-founder Joe Rice and other Motley Rice lawyers also play a role in the Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy proceedings and negotiations for The Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice, a group of law firms representing thousands of abuse survivors. Learn more about Motley Rice’s experience in sexual abuse cases.

The case is C. Evan Manderson v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn; Church of Saint Francis de Sales; Saint Virgilius Roman Catholic Church; Father Coleman Costello in the Supreme Court of the State of New York County of Queens.  

Read the complaint.

About Motley Rice LLC

Motley Rice is one of the nation’s largest plaintiffs’ litigation firms. With a tradition of representing those whose rights have been violated, Motley Rice attorneys gained recognition for their pioneering asbestos lawsuits, their work with the State Attorneys General in the landmark litigation against Big Tobacco, and their representation of 9/11 families in the ongoing lawsuit against terrorist financiers. The firm continues to handle complex litigation in numerous areas, including securities fraud; antitrust; consumer protection; mesothelioma; environmental contamination; prescription and over-the-counter drugs; other medical devices; human rights; aviation disasters; and wrongful death. Motley Rice is headquartered in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., and has additional offices in Connecticut; Louisiana; Washington, D.C.; New Jersey; New York; Pennsylvania; Missouri; Rhode Island; and West Virginia. For more information, contact Motley Rice attorney Daniel R. Lapinski (NJ, NY, PA) at 1.800.768.4026 or visit www.motleyrice.com. Motley Rice LLC, a South Carolina Limited Liability Company, is engaged in the New Jersey practice of law through Motley Rice New Jersey LLC. Esther Berezofsky is the attorney responsible for New Jersey practice. Connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.