Effort begins to measure ‘pot of money’ for Albany diocese’s abuse survivors

Times Union [Albany NY]

July 11, 2022

By Brendan J. Lyons

Attorneys for hundreds of alleged victims agreed Monday to move forward with a negotiated mediation plan

Attorneys for hundreds of victims who were allegedly sexually abused by clergy and others associated with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany agreed Monday to move forward with a negotiated mediation plan that will also keep hundreds of Child Victims Act lawsuits moving forward — including some that are scheduled for trial in the coming months.

During a conference Monday with state Supreme Court Justice L. Michael Mackey, attorneys for the more than 400 plaintiffs rejected a request by the diocese’s attorney, Michael L. Costello, to “pause” the litigation in order to set up a mediation program. The attorneys noted that doing so would stop the pre-trial discovery process, delay scheduled trials and make it less likely that the diocese’s insurance carriers would be motivated to aggressively resolve the cases.

Cynthia S. Lafave, an Albany attorney, said the attorneys for the alleged victims who have filed claims could not agree to support the mediation plan that had been put forth by the diocese last week. She noted that it called on the victims to sign releases in order to join a mediation process in which they would no longer have control over the outcome.

“Everyone has gotten to the point where they are in pre-trial litigation or have a trial date,” LaFave told the judge. “A stay would give all the power back to the diocese at that point. … (The diocese’s mediation plan) took the power and the voice away from the survivors.”

The attorneys agreed during Monday’s conference to move forward with an alternate mediation plan, but without a court order stopping the lawsuits from moving forward on a separate track.

“We have to proceed with litigation, and if the matter is mediated successfully during the course of litigation, so be it,” said Mitchell Garabedian, a Massachusetts attorney who represents victims suing the Albany diocese and was involved with an $85 million sexual abuse settlement reached with the Boston diocese two decades ago.