Sex Abuse Plaintiffs Counter Church's $$ Offer

By Tom Mashberg
Boston Herald [Boston MA]
August 19, 2003

Lawyers for hundreds of plaintiffs in clergy sexual abuse suits made a counteroffer to the Archdiocese of Boston's proposed settlement yesterday, but refused to disclose the amount.

"We are very intentionally not making known any specifics," said attorney Robert A. Sherman of Greenberg Traurig, who was at the meeting where the proposal was made. "It is impossible to negotiate seriously with every number being dissected in the media."

On Aug. 8, within days of the installation of Archbishop Sean Patrick O'Malley, the church offered $55 million to settle claims by 542 alleged victims of clergy abuse dating back many decades.

It was the first major monetary move by the church in more than a year of scandalous revelations, and attorneys and plaintiffs said they were pleased to see O'Malley embark so quickly on the road to a possible global settlement.

The offer came with a 30-day deadline. Attorneys then put together a steering committee to evaluate the church's offer and come up with a counterproposal.

That proposal was presented yesterday to church attorney Thomas H. Hannigan Jr. in a meeting in Brockton at the offices of Paul A. Finn, head of Commonwealth Mediation and Conciliation Inc.

The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, spokesman for the archdiocese, said "as always in issues dealing with the substance of mediation talks, the archdiocese will make no comment." He said the church would likely have a response this week.

Attorney Carmen L. Durso, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers on hand, said all parties agreed to keep the details secret. But Durso noted the lawyers were previously on record as stating the church's inaugural $55 million offer was "insufficient for the needs of our clients."

Durso, Sherman and a third lawyer present yesterday, Mitchell Garabedian, all said financial and non-financial issues were discussed at the 2 -hour session.

They would disclose no details of the non-financial issues as well.

But the lawyers have noted in the past that any final deal would have to include guaranteed counseling for alleged victims and a mechanism for distributing settlement funds that would include a high-low range for each accuser.

Garabedian, who settled 86 cases with the church for $10 million last year, said: "Both sides are working very, very hard. Obviously, both sides are hoping we can resolve this as soon as possible."

The initial settlement offer from the archdiocese required at least 95 percent of the alleged victims to approve it.


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