Seattle Archdiocese to Pay $1.2m to Settle Sex-abuse Suit
By Sara Jean Green
May 18, 2015
A 63-year-old Sedro-Woolley woman who sued the Seattle Archdiocese over sexual abuse she says she suffered as a child reached a $1.2 million settlement with church officials late Sunday, days before the civil case was to go to a Whatcom County jury, according to her attorneys.
Jeri Hubbard accused Father Michael Cody of sexually abusing her in the late 1960s and early 1970s when Cody served as pastor of the St. Charles Parish in Burlington, Skagit County, according to her lawsuit. He was also pastor of Assumption Parish in Bellingham during that time.
The Seattle Times does not typically name alleged victims of sex crimes, but Hubbard agreed to be publicly identified, according to her lawyers.
Hubbard was sexually abused after a psychiatrist diagnosed Cody as a pedophile in 1962, and at that point, church officials knew he had already molested at least eight young girls under the age of 12, Hubbard’s attorneys — Michael Pfau, John Murphy and Rand Jack — said in a news release Monday.
Archbishop Thomas Connelly sent Cody to treatment but then allowed him to return to the church and transferred him to St. Charles Parish, despite knowing he was a danger to children, Hubbard’s attorneys said.
The abuse began in about 1967 and continued for five years, Hubbard alleged in her suit.
According to Hubbard’s attorneys, the Seattle Archdiocese denied Hubbard’s allegations against Cody during the two years it took her case to get to trial.
On the eve of trial, however, the Archdiocese admitted liability for the abuse, the attorneys said.
Michael Patterson, the lead attorney for the Seattle Archdiocese, said Monday the $1.2 million settlement was “fair and reasonable” given the extent of abuse Hubbard has suffered.
Superior Court Judge Deborra Garrett acknowledged the Archdiocese’s admission of liability to the jury, the news release says, quoting the judge as saying the Archdiocese acknowledged it acted negligently and recklessly in appointing Cody to St. Charles Parish, thereby causing “Ms. Hubbard severe emotional distress.”
The trial began two weeks ago, and closing arguments were scheduled for Tuesday.
Pfau, who has represented numerous plaintiffs in sex-abuse cases against the Catholic Church, said the records in Cody’s case — including his diagnosis as a pedophile — are among the earliest documents about “a priest in the Seattle Archdiocese posing a danger to children.”
Three more lawsuits have been filed — two in King County and one in Skagit County — against the Seattle Archdiocese by other alleged victims who say they were molested by Cody, said Patterson, from the Seattle law firm, Patterson Buchanan Fobes & Leitch.
“We intend to hopefully resolve those cases sooner rather than later,” he said of the three other lawsuits.
Patterson, who has represented the Seattle Archdiocese in a number of sex-abuse cases, said all of them have been resolved through out-of-court settlements and Hubbard’s case would have been the first to go to a jury had the parties not reached an agreement.
The process to remove Cody from the priesthood began in the 1980s, Patterson said. Cody is now 84 and living in Nevada, he said.
“This was 47 years ago,” Patterson said of the alleged abuse suffered by Hubbard. “It was inappropriate and it shouldn’t have happened … We feel very sorry this happened and we wish any victim of sexual abuse will come forward and we will deal with them in a compassionate way.”
According to her attorneys, Hubbard “could have settled earlier, but she made the Archdiocese admit in court that it knew it was moving a sexual predator into our community,” Murphy said in the news release. “It is now on record for her case and for future cases.”
Before Hubbard was sexually abused, Cody served in St. Luke Parish, Holy Family Parish and St. James Cathedral Parish, all in Seattle; Holy Family Parish in Auburn and Sacred Heart Parish in La Conner.
After being assigned to St. Charles Parish in Burlington and Assumption Parish in Bellingham, Cody was transferred to St. Margaret Parish in Seattle.
In June, the Seattle Archdiocese agreed to pay over $12 million to 30 men who were sexually abused as students at Seattle’s O’Dea High School and Briscoe Memorial School in Kent from the 1950s to the early 1980s.
Since roughly 2003, more than $3 billion has been paid to victims nationwide who were sexually abused by members of the Catholic clergy, according to the website, BishopAccountability.org, which tracks settlements and monetary awards as a result of civil suits.
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this story.Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org