“Emotional Damage” Award To Be Reviewed By Judge

Tom Girsch Scored Big in His Lawsuit

Tom Girsch worked as a high school teacher for the Cedar Valley Catholic Schools. When Girsch, who was divorced, remarried without first obtaining a church annulment of his first marriage, the Archdiocese of Dubuque fired him. The Catholic Church does not recognize civil divorces, only church annulments. Since Girsch had not obtained one, he was, in the Church’s eyes, “living in sin” with his new spouse and therefore unfit to serve as a role model for high school students.

With the help of attorney Mark Zaiger, Girsch filed a lawsuit seeking restitution for the financial damage he suffered as a result of the loss of his job. To his (undoubtedly pleasant) surprise, the jury not only awarded him $254,000 for the loss of pay and benefits. The jurors also tacked on an additional $352,000 for “emotional damages.”

Attorney Brendan Quann, who represents the church and the school, has challenged the award and has stated that $50,000 to $100,000 would be a more reasonable figure. Judge Bard Harris, who presided at the trial, has agreed to review the award and will rule on the matter at some point in the future.

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