Victims' Lawyers Meet on Church Settlement Proposal

By Denise Lavoie [Boston MA]
Downloaded August 14, 2003

Less than a week after the Boston archdiocese made a proposal to settle more than 500 clergy sexual abuse cases for $55 million, lawyers who represent the alleged victims are completing a counterproposal that would award victims more money.

During a meeting Wednesday of 35 victims' lawyers, there was agreement that the original offer of $55 million is not enough to compensate 542 people who say they were sexually abused as children by priests within the Boston archdiocese, according to four lawyers who attended the closed-door meeting.

"I think there's general consensus that the initial proposal was not adequate and that there is going to have to be more money in order to adequately compensate the victims," said attorney Alan Cantor.

Attorney Jeffrey Newman, whose firm, Greenberg Traurig, represents nearly half of the 542 alleged victims, said the plaintiffs' attorneys are putting the final touches on a detailed counterproposal they hope to send to the archdiocese during the next few days.

"If the church wants to resolve it and we're not so distant in terms of valuation and in terms of the details, it may come together fairly quickly," Newman said.

Neither Newman nor several other attorneys who attended the meeting would discuss how far apart the two sides are in terms of money. But Newman said the lawyers are hopeful that newly installed Archbishop Sean O'Malley will approve the counterproposal.

The $55 million offer was made just nine days after O'Malley was installed as the new leader of the archdiocese, following months of stalled settlement negotiations.

On his first day, O'Malley named attorney Thomas Hannigan Jr. as lead counsel for the archdiocese in the negotiations. In the early 1990s, Hannigan led the successful negotiations that resulted in the church settling 101 lawsuits in the Rev. James Porter case in Fall River, when O'Malley was bishop there.

Attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr., of Greenberg Traurig, said the effort to settle the cases now is "intense," following a series of meetings this week.

"I was anticipating it would be several weeks before the plaintiffs' lawyers would be unified, but in our case it took five minutes," MacLeish said of Wednesday's meeting.

"We hope that Bishop O'Malley will be responsive," he said.

The Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents 120 alleged victims, said that in addition to discussing the monetary component, the lawyers also talked about proposing -- as part of the settlement -- the establishment of an independent committee made up of victims to review allegations against priests in the future.


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