|Brothers, Bishop Meet to Discuss Settlement
By Stephanie Barry
July 30, 2008
SPRINGFIELD - Two brothers who say they were cut out of a 2004 settlement between the local Roman Catholic diocese and alleged clergy abuse victims met with Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell at his home Tuesday.
Standing outside McDonnell's Elliot Street living quarters, Paul M. Herrick, 53, and Peter J. Herrick, 51, said they were excluded from a $7.7 million settlement in 2004, despite being among the first of 46 alleged victims to come forward.
"I asked: 'How could you? How do you stiff people like us - me, especially because I started the whole thing," Paul Herrick said, although both brothers agreed McDonnell was compassionate and responsive during the meeting.
The Herricks are among 60 plaintiffs recently invited by the diocese and their insurance carriers to join an uncontested settlement with monetary damages ranging between $5,000 and $200,000.
A lawyer for the diocese, John J. Egan, said the Herricks were not included in the first round because clients of a Greenfield lawyer, who had the lion's share of early complainants, ate up available money.
"Those were John Stobierski's clients, and he insisted we settle all his cases first ... At that time, the insurance carriers would not reimburse us, so we had no more funds," for the remaining plaintiffs, Egan said.
Stobierski disputed that.
"I did not insist. I clearly advocated for my clients first, but I advocated for all the survivors," Stobierski said.
Stobierski said the average settlement in the first round was $168,000 and the average payoff in this tier will be $75,000. Egan said the diocese will not participate in the negotiation of individual settlements.
Four Herrick brothers filed suit against the diocese in 2003. The brothers said they were abused by a cabal of pedophile priests between 1967 and 1983.
Formerly of Greenfield, Paul and Peter Herrick live in Springfield, Vt., and Bangor, Maine, respectively. Both have families and professional jobs, but said they struggle with post traumatic stress disorder and other health problems.
They say their abusers included then-Revs. Edward M. Kennedy, Ronald E. Wamsher, and J. Roy Jenness.
Kennedy was defrocked in 2006; Jenness has died; Wamsher was placed on administrative leave but is barred from presenting himself as a priest publicly, according to a diocesan spokesman.
"There were countless others, too," Peter Herrick said Tuesday. "What we want people to take away from this is: watch your children."
Paul Herrick said he and his brother did not request the meeting with McDonnell with any specific goals in mind, but to put a human face on the plaintiffs' plight.
The complainants have been asked to sign onto the settlement by Aug. 11. Egan said the process is voluntary and plaintiffs reserve their rights to pursue their claims if they opt out.
The settlement had been stymied by a protracted battle between the diocese and its insurance carriers, who resisted covering the claims, alleging negligence on the part of the church.
The diocese announced an $8.5 million settlement between those parties earlier this month. Five million will be allocated for the new claims, while roughly $3.5 million will offset the debt incurred after the first round.
The Herricks said they are still undecided about signing on to the settlement, but are leaning toward joining.
"I can't do this anymore. I'm done," Paul Herrick said.
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