Judge denies motion to dismiss Hancock County lawsuit over priest abuse allegations
NEW CUMBERLAND — A request by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston to dismiss a lawsuit alleging sexual assault by the Rev. Victor Frobas has been denied in Hancock County Circuit Court.
The order issued July 31 by Circuit Judge David Sims pertains to a complaint filed May 15 in Hancock County Circuit Court by Michael Pirraglia of Fairfax, Va. The complaint alleges Pirraglia was sexually assaulted over a three-year period by Frobas as a child while attending St. Paul Catholic Church in Weirton.
Frobas was assigned to the diocese from 1965 to 1983, according to court filings. The complaint seeks compensation from the diocese as the employer of Frobas, and alleges the diocese was aware of Frobas’ misconduct.
“The court finds that plaintiff has sufficiently set forth several causes of action against defendant in a manner that permits plaintiff to maintain his cause of action under West Virginia statutory and common law,” Sims states in his order. “There has been little formal discovery undertaken in this matter, and the claims raised by plaintiff and defenses raised by defendants may be more fully developed during discovery.”
Requests for comment from the diocese were not returned on Tuesday.
The initial complaint alleges Frobas began sexually abusing Pirraglia when he was 10 years old in 1980, and this continued until Frobas was reassigned three years later.
“Not only did the diocese continue to employ Frobas, a pedophile priest, the diocese moved him from parish to parish giving Frobas new and different children to sexually abuse,” the Pirraglia complaint states.
“Instead of protecting its children, the diocese made them prey for a pedophile.”
Pirraglia is being represented by Teresa Toriseva, Joshua D. Miller and the offices of Toriseva Law in Wheeling. He is seeking compensatory damages from the Diocese.
In May 2019, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey added allegations about Frobas to a lawsuit he filed against the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.
According to Morrisey, prior to his Weirton assignment Frobas had been accused of incidents at Camp Tygart in Huttonsville, Wheeling Central Catholic High School and Philadelphia.
He was first accused of sexually abusing a child in 1962, but the diocese allowed him to come to West Virginia, according to the complaint. Then-Bishop Joseph Hodges opted to give Frobas a second chance at the diocese.
“Upon information and belief, Frobas was moved frequently due to suspicions of and sometimes allegations of sexual abuse of children,” the Morrisey complaint states.
During the 1970s, Frobas served as director at the Camp Tygart youth camp, as the diocesan director of scouting, and as chaplain at Wheeling Central Catholic High School.
He later was assigned to St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Weirton from 1980 to 1982, where he is alleged to have pulled elementary school children out of classes to watch video games and gain the trust of those who were then abused in an on-site residence, according to the Morrisey complaint.