Talks Could Spur Deal: O'Malley Plans to Attend Negotiations with Victims

By Eric Convey, Tom Mashberg and Robin Washington
Boston Herald [Boston MA]
September 4, 2003

Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley plans to attend the next negotiating session between lawyers for the church and sexual-abuse plaintiffs in a bid to invigorate sluggish talks, lawyers said last night.

In a change from past meetings, victims will attend and tell their stories.

"There's nothing like hearing directly from the lawyers and, more importantly, the people who have experienced this particular abuse so he understands what kind of damage was suffered and why we think the settlement ought to be made at a certain level to take into account all the damage," said Carmen L. Durso, a leading plaintiffs' lawyer.

Durso added he is confident O'Malley's lawyers were conveying information to the archbishop.

The meeting is scheduled for Saturday.

Numerous sources cautioned against interpreting O'Malley's plan to attend as an indication a deal is near.

"Anyone who talks numbers is crazy," one participant said.

The parties have had a difficult time bridging the chasm between the $90 million-to-$120 million range sought by plaintiffs and the $65 million offered by the archdiocese two weeks ago, several sources said.

Additionally, at least two technical points are proving difficult to resolve.

One is a church requirement that 95 percent of plaintiffs sign off on a deal. "That won't stand. There's no way," one lawyer said.

Another stumbling block is that lawyers are having a hard time devising a scheme to parcel out any settlement among plaintiffs.

"It's still going to take a lot of hard work to get to the point where we feel we need to get in order to fairly compensate our clients," Durso said.

The settlement talks cover 542 plaintiffs. Courtroom wrangling has been put on hold while the negotiations proceed.

While O'Malley has yet to take part in the Boston talks, he participated in similar negotiations in the Diocese of Fall River while bishop there during the 1990s.

Alleged victim Kathy Dwyer, who earlier yesterday joined fellow survivor advocates at the chancery in protest of O'Malley's failure to meet with them, gave conditional support for the archbishop's decision to attend the negotiating session.

"I think it's great that he's going to involve himself in the settlements, but his goal appears to be one of putting out fires, to get rid of the settlements," she said.

Dwyer said she hopes O'Malley is similarly responsive to plaintiffs who do not have civil suits pending.


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