8th Circuit upholds dismissal of suit over sexual assault allegations at Army medical center

By Charmaine Little | Nov 16, 2018

ST. LOUIS – Citing the United States of America’s government sovereignty, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit on Nov. 9 affirmed the dismissal of a suit against it over allegations of sexual assault by a priest at an Army medical center.

The 8th Circuit agreed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri's decision to dismiss the case because the U.S. has sovereign immunity as a government entity. Circuit Judge William Duane Benton authored the opinion while James B. Loken and Bobby Shepherd concurred.

Michael Daniel Croyle, by and through is parent and legal guardian, Sandra G. Croyle, filed the lawsuit over allegations the United States did not warn church participants of Mark N. Matson’s criminal history. 

The plaintiffs sued over allegations of negligence and negligent supervision under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), saying the government should have not only known about Matson’s past of being accused of sexual abuse but should have told the families that worked closely with him about it. The 8th Circuit's order states that the government did not do a background check on Matson.


Circuit Judge James B. Loken   U.S. Courts Library 8th Circuit - United States Courts

While the FTCA does waive the immunity for certain tort claims, the 8th Circuit ruled that doesn’t apply in this case. 

According to the memorandum and order, in 1992, the government contracted with Theatine Fathers, a Catholic organization, for the services of a priest at the Tripler Army Medical Center. Theatine Fathers then assigned Matson to serve as a priest.

The order states that instead of doing a background check on Matson, the government relied on an ecclesiastical endorsement from the Archdiocese of Military Services. Matson had to provide information about his criminal history but at the time, he didn’t have any pending charges but had a past of sexual abuse allegations. The order states Matson was arrested in 1987 for allegedly fondling two teenage boys and two years later, he was charged with sexually assaulting a child. 

Michael Daniel Croyle alleged that Matson sexually assaulted him six different times as a child while escorting him to classes after Mass.

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