SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) – Four men have filed suit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton and its current and former bishop over claims a priest sexually abused them when they were children.

The plaintiffs are believed to be the first to take advantage of a recent Pennsylvania appeals court ruling that could make it easier for some victims of abuse to pursue civil claims.

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The men, who range in age from 45 to 57, allege they were sexually abused by the Rev. Michael Pulicare as children.

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Pulicare died in 1999. In a statement, the diocese says it never received any allegations against him while he was alive. The diocese also says the suits rely on a “novel legal theory” to try to get around Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations.

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