Reported in Sexual Abuse Cases in Los Angeles
By Laurie Goodstein
- New York Times
July 15, 2007
LOS ANGELES, Ca -- Lawyers for more
than 500 people who say they were abused by Roman Catholic clergy members said
last night that they had settled their lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Los
Angeles for $660 million.
If approved, it will be by far the largest
payout made by any single diocese since the clergy sexual abuse scandals first
became public in Boston in 2002. It will dwarf the $85 million paid for 552 claims
by the Archdiocese of Boston.
The lawyers in the Los Angeles cases said
the settlement would be announced today, a day before jury selection was set to
begin in the first of the cases. Any agreement would require a judges approval.
M. Tamberg, director of media relations for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said
in an e-mail message that the only comment he could make was, The archdiocese
will be in court Monday at 9:30 a.m.
A lawyer for the archdiocese
did not return calls for comment.
Raymond P. Boucher, the lawyer who is
representing 242 of the plaintiffs in the Los Angeles cases, confirmed in a telephone
interview yesterday that a deal would be announced today for $660 million.
just fell into place, Mr. Boucher said.
The settlement, which archdiocese
officials have said would require the sale of church property, appeared to bring
the drawn-out legal wrangling to a close.
This will resolve all of
the cases against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said Katherine K. Freberg,
an Irvine, Calif., lawyer who represents 109 plaintiffs. Its a global
The Los Angeles cases have been particularly complex because
they involve so many victims, multiple insurance companies, many Catholic religious
orders whose own priests and brothers stand accused, and a prominent archbishop,
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, who has cast himself as an ally of victims but has been
accused by them of intransigence.
Many dioceses in California have been
hit by large numbers of lawsuits because the state passed a law in 2002 that opened
a one-year window for cases to be filed without regard to the statute of limitations.
Sanchez, a 47-year old financial adviser who is one of the plaintiffs in the case
set to begin on Monday, said he had been girding himself to testify about the
abuse he suffered when he was 9 or 10 years old, and he said he wanted to see
church officials called to account in a courtroom.
Asked before the settlement
was disclosed what he would do with any money he might receive, Mr. Sanchez said
simply, Where can you take that check and cash it that will make you 10
years old again?
Cardinal Mahony announced in May that, to raise money
for a settlement, the archdiocese would sell its administrative building on Wilshire
Boulevard and might sell about 50 other church properties that were not being
used by parishes or schools.
Mr. Bouchers co-counsel, Laurence E.
Drivon, said, The primary motivation for the archdiocese to settle is that
it is substantially likely that if they dont resolve these cases theyre
going to get hit for much more than the settlement amount.
Press was the first news organization to report on Saturday that the archdiocese
had agreed to a settlement.
Cardinal Mahony had been expected to be called
to testify in the case that was set to begin on Monday, involving what the archdiocese
knew about two decades of alleged abuse by one priest the Rev. Clinton
Hagenbach, who died in 1987. Cardinal Mahony became archbishop of Los Angeles
The trial scheduled for Monday is only one of more than a dozen
that had been set to start between now and January.
A settlement would require
the archdiocese to make public its confidential files that could shed light on
which church officials knew of the abuse accusations, and when they knew, Mr.
Boucher said. Many of the accused priests had multiple victims because they were
moved by their superiors from one parish to another when accusations arose.
Grant, 44, is an abuse victim whose case was settled by the Diocese of Orange,
in California, and is a plaintiff in the Los Angeles cases. Ms. Grant is Western
regional director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and counsels
other victims. Earlier yesterday, she said any settlement in Los Angeles would
be a bitter release.
We understand there are survivors
who are desperately in need of medical care, therapy, she said. They
may not be able to go through a trial. But on the other hand, there are many survivors
really whove wanted their day in court.
She added: Its
been a long, hard five-year battle for survivors in Los Angeles. So I think that
probably a sense of temporary relief that may come from it.
Angeles Archdiocese, its insurers and several Roman Catholic religious orders,
including the Carmelites, the Franciscans and the Jesuits, have already paid a
total of $114 million in several separate agreements, to settle 86 claims.
over sexual abuse have already cost the Roman Catholic church in the United States
more than $1.5 billion. Each diocese must handle the costs on its own, with no
assistance from the Vatican.
Settlements are far more common, and victims
in California have consistently won some of the largest payouts. In California,
the Diocese of Orange paid $100 million for 90 abuse claims in 2004 and the Diocese
of Oakland paid $56 million to 56 people in 2005. The Diocese of Covington, in
Kentucky, paid about $85 million to about 350 people.
Five dioceses have
filed for bankruptcy protection: San Diego; Davenport, Iowa; Portland, Ore.; Spokane,
Wash.; and Tucson.
David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network
of those Abused by Priests, said of the settlement: They should feel incredibly
proud, and Catholics should be very grateful to them. Without their courage, dozens
of predators would still be unknown and maybe working in parishes today, and we
would know absolutely nothing about who covered up these crimes.
Clohessy said, however, We dont know as much as we would have if some
of these cases had gone to trial.
Michael Parrish contributed reporting
from Los Angeles
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