Westfield church named in Child Victims Act suit

MAYVILLE — The First Presbyterian Church of Westfield and Presbyterian Church USA have been named in a Child Victims Act lawsuit.

The eight-page lawsuit was filed Tuesday in state Supreme Court in Chautauqua County on behalf of a Westfield man who claims he was abused by a church leader from about 1985 to 1988. At the time, the youth attended Sunday school and fellowship meetings at the First Presbyterian Church, located at 49 S. Portage St., Westfield.

The lawsuit claims the victim was sexually abused on a weekly basis the Rev. Leonard Edward Durbin.

“Through his position in service to the Defendants, Reverend Durbin was put in direct contact with Plaintiff, then a minor student/parishioner,” the lawsuit states. “Specifically, Reverend Durbin was assigned to the instruction, spiritual guidance and counseling of the Plaintiff under the Defendants. It was under these conditions that the Plaintiff came under direct control and authority of Reverend Durbin, who used his position of authority and trust over the Plaintiff to sexually abuse and harass him.”

Durbin died in 2009.

The lawsuit was filed by Buffalo attorney Frank Bogulski, who said his client was friends with Durbin’s son when the two were kids.

“It’s been very difficult for him emotionally,” Bogulski said of his client. “He was friends with the guy’s son – they went to school together and that’s probably how the reverend preyed on him. He had access to him.”

Bogulski said his client has been to counseling and has been “dealing with it the best he can,” noting that many children who were abused decades ago are now coming forward as adults due to the Child Victims Act.

“It’s been difficult to deal with for him,” Bogulski said, “but slowly he’s been getting into a good place. With this lawsuit there’s a chance for some justice and to move on. … We just hope that justice will prevail and the church accepts its responsibility.”

The suit is seeking an unspecified amount due to “injuries, losses and damages” sustained by the Westfield man.

“As a direct result of the Defendants’ malfeasance and nonfeasance, Plaintiff was prevented and will continue to be prevented from performing his normal daily activities and obtaining the full enjoyment of life, and has incurred and will continue to incur expenses for medical and psychological treatment,” the lawsuit states.