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.

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

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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