HELENA – Attorneys for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena, an order of nuns and hundreds of alleged sex abuse victims said Tuesday they will try to hammer out a settlement during a mediation conference in April.
If the sides fail to reach a deal, the case will head to trial tentatively set for December of next year. Judge Jeffrey Sherlock would have to decide whether to hold individual or group trials for more than 300 plaintiffs.
That’s the number of people who have claimed they were abused as children by priests and nuns in western Montana. The claims go back as far as the 1940s.
The plaintiffs, many of them Native Americans, are from two combined lawsuits filed last year against the diocese and the Ursuline Sisters of the Western Province. They contend the diocese and the nuns knew or should have known about the abuse, but covered it up instead of stopping it.
One of the defendants, the Ursulines, is resisting having to appear before the mediator in Seattle for the week of April 15, claiming financial hardship and limited resources.
The cost of the mediation is expecte...