The wrongful death complaint filed by the family of Sean McIlmail seeks at least $50,000 in damages. It names the archdiocese, the Rev. Robert L. Brennan and Monsignor William Lynn as defendants.
The family contends that church officials knew of multiple pedophile allegations against Brennan for about 10 years before McIlmail met him at a parish in the Rhawnhurst section of Philadelphia.
McIlmail recently came forward with allegations that the priest abused him for years, beginning at age 11 in 1998. Prosecutors filed rape charges against Brennan in September, but dropped the case weeks later after McIlmail died at age 26.
McIlmail had been in and out of substance abuse treatment programs since graduating from college, and had not been able to hold down a job, attorney Marci Hamilton said.
A church spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit. Brennan's attorney in the criminal case, Trevan Borum, said previously that the priest had hoped to clear his name at trial.
Borum said Wednesday that it's not yet clear if he will represent Brennan in the civil case.
Lynn, the longtime secretary for clergy, is serving a three- to six-year term for child endangerment for allegedly reassigning predator priests to unsuspecting parishes. He is appealing his conviction.
Lynn's attorney, Thomas Bergstrom, said Wednesday that he had not yet read the lawsuit.