Saginaw diocese, St. Mary's motion for lawsuit to be dismissed
After a lawsuit was filed by a Central Michigan University student in January, attorneys for the Saginaw Diocese and St. Mary's University Parish claim there is no "sufficient information" to confirm or deny multiple counts against them and former St. Mary's priest Denis Heames.
Both the church and the diocese, represented by Masud Labor Law Group in Saginaw, requested all accusations in the lawsuit be dismissed. DeWitt senior Megan Winans filed the lawsuit on Jan. 14, asking the court to consider whether she was abused by Heames, who was removed from St. Mary's in July, during her work as a "media intern" at the church from 2012-14.
The lawsuit claimed battery, defamation, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent supervision and retention.
Both the diocese and church responded on March 21, by either saying both entities deny the accusations as untrue or did not have sufficient information to confirm or deny the allegations made in the lawsuit.
"The Saginaw Diocese and St. Mary's lack knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations in this paragraph," read the response for most accusations.
This response was listed for the majority of accusations made by Winans and her attorneys in the original lawsuit, including that Heames and Winans maintained a dating relationship and Heames tried to have relationships with other female parishioners.
It states Winans' claims are obsolete because of her "unclean hands, contributory negligence and illegal acts, including making false statements, obtaining employment to carry on an alleged sexual relationship and concealing that relationship from the Saginaw Diocese and St. Mary's."
The diocese and St. Mary's deny knowing about sexual contact between Winans and Heames, though they cite statements they say Winans made, including telling Heames about items bought at Victoria's Secret.
The parties' attorneys also state Winans failed to plead sufficient facts, and that she "merely states labels and conclusions of law contrary to the requirements of Michigan Court Rules."
The response also alleges Winans consented to all sexual activity with Heames, contrary to Winans' accusations, though deny there was sexual contact between them.
"To the extent (Winans) alleges that she was excused from a duty to conduct herself as a reasonably prudent adult or that she lacked free will, (her) allegations are denied as untrue," read the response.
The parties also cited a written agreement of arbitration for the claims she alleged to the diocese, which was signed in 2013. According to the response, Winans needed to file the lawsuit within 180 days of signing the document.
In defense of St. Mary's and the Saginaw Diocese, attorneys made the following defense statements:
- Winans' claims are an unlawful attempt to deprive the Saginaw Diocese and St. Mary's of legal protection for religion as outlined by the U.S. Constitution.
- Winans made false or reckless representations of material facts regarding the diocese and St. Mary's, calling for sanctions against Winans.
- Michigan law does not recognize religious fiduciary duty.
- The Diocese of Saginaw states it doesn't know where Heames is located. Winans and her attorneys believed he was in Canada.
- If the conduct did take place, Heames was not acting within the scope of his duties, and the diocese and church aren't responsible for his conduct outside of his priestly duties.
- The church and diocese acted quickly to investigate and address the alleged wrongful conduct.
A motion hearing has been set for June 10.