Most plaintiffs accept $85 million Boston
By Ralph Ranalli, Boston Globe
October 21, 2003
More than 80 percent of the 552 eligible people have agreed
to take part in the historic $85 million out-of-court settlement
between the Archdiocese of Boston and alleged victims of sexual
abuse by clergy, reaching the participation threshold necessary
to make the agreement binding and final, a lawyer for the
church has determined.
Thomas H. Hannigan Jr., an attorney for the archdiocese,
informed church officials yesterday afternoon that a sufficient
number of alleged victims had chosen to accept the settlement,
said the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese.
Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley, who was in Rome after attending
ceremonies for the beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta,
released a statement through Coyne yesterday lauding the milestone.
``I hope that in the next few days, even more of the plaintiffs
will agree to enter into the process,'' O'Malley said in the
statement. ``Now the work of the arbitrators can begin and
progress can be made in bringing to conclusion the legal aspects
of the cases of a great number of survivors.''
O'Malley added, however, that ``much work remains to be done.''
``The Archdiocese of Boston remains committed to doing everything
we can to work to bring about healing, reconciliation, and
peace for those who have been abused and for all who have
been affected by this terrible scandal,'' O'Malley said.
Lawyers for alleged victims have predicted for weeks that
they would surpass the participation level necessary to end
most of the legal wrangling over the Boston clergy sexual
abuse scandal, which is considered by many to be the worst
scandal in the history of the Catholic Church in the United
While the exact total payout is unknown, it is expected to
be the largest single payment ever made by a church in the
United States to settle claims of sexual abuse. (The $85 million
figure is based on 100 percent participation and will be reduced
for each claimant who rejects the settlement.)
In recent weeks, many of the 57 attorneys who represent alleged
victims covered by the settlement have said they expect the
participation rate to be as high as 98 percent. Eligible claimants
have until Thursday to decide whether to accept the settlement
or continue to fight the church.
Yesterday, lawyer Mitchell Garabedian said that the overwhelmingly
positive response from his 120 clients had put the number
of signed agreements over the top.
``I am submitting 114 agreements today,'' Garabedian said.
``I have been informed by the mediators that those submissions
will put the total of positive responses past 80 percent.''
The finalization of the agreement will prompt an intensive,
nine-week arbitration process for the claimants.
Each participating alleged victim will take part in a two-hour
session to present his or her case to a team of arbitrators
from Brockton-based Commonwealth Mediation and Conciliation,
which, after hearing and comparing all claims, will decide
individual damage awards.
Under the terms of the deal, individual claimants will receive
an award of between $80,000 and $300,000, depending on the
severity of the abuse. Relatives of abuse victims who sued
for loss of consortium will receive a flat payment of $20,000
under the deal.
Jeffrey Newman, a lawyer for the Boston firm Greenberg Traurig,
which represents more than 260 victims covered by the deal,
said the finalization of the settlement agreement does not
yet mean his clients are breathing sighs of relief.
``It is still very difficult for these people to dredge up
all the terrible things that happened to them, and they are
laboring to prepare for the arbitration,'' Newman said.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.