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Jury awards punitive damages in priest abuse case

DOVER, Del. — A jury has assessed punitive damages of one dollar against a Catholic parish in Wilmington in a priest child sex abuse case.

But the jury on Wednesday returned a punitive damage award of $30 million against former priest Francis DeLuca.

The jury last week found that St. Elizabeth’s parish was negligent in not preventing DeLuca from sexually abusing John Vai (vye) in the 1960s. It awarded Vai $30 million in compensatory damages, with St. Elizabeth’s responsible for $3 million of that amount.

On Wednesday, the jury found that St. Elizabeth’s showed reckless disregard in not preventing DeLuca from abusing Vai and other boys, but it awarded only token punitive damages after witnesses said a big award could devastate the parish.