45 Lawsuits against LA Archdiocese Move toward Settlements
500 Alleged Victims Filed Lawsuits
January 6, 2006
LOS ANGELES -- Any settlement of lawsuits pending against the Los Angeles Archdiocese should include the release of church documents on priests accused of sexual abuse, a victims' advocacy group said Friday.
More than 500 alleged victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests have filed lawsuits against the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
After several years of negotiations, lawyers close to the litigation told the Los Angeles Times newspaper that about 45 lawsuits are now moving toward settlement.
"We hope that victims in these cases hang tough and insist on the disclosure of secret church documents, so Catholics and citizens can learn which church officials actively put kids at risk by keeping known predators in parishes," said Mary Grant, western regional director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
She also said the public should be able to know whether Cardinal Roger Mahony covered up cases of sexual abuse by priests.
Attorneys representing accused priests and the archdiocese have cited confidentiality and privacy concerns for resisting the public release of internal documents.
According to a Web site set up by church attorneys, the archdiocese is not trying to keep all information from the public, but it is "fighting to protect spiritual and confidential communications between priests and the Archbishop, Chancellor and Vicar for Clergy, the privacy of which goes to the heart of the way the Catholic Church practices religion."
The church has accused insurance carriers of hindering settlement efforts, while insurers contend the archdiocese forfeited coverage by covering up the sexual misdeeds of its priests, The Times reported.
Insurers also want the archdiocese to more aggressively challenge the claims of alleged abuse victims, according to the newspaper.
Most of the money to settle the 45 cases being negotiated would come directly from archdiocese funds, The Times reported.
The abuse cited in those cases allegedly occurred mostly during the last two decades, while the archdiocese was self-insured.
By being self-insured, the church can settle the cases without involving insurance companies.
Also included in the settlement talks are about a dozen cases of alleged abuse that occurred before 1953, when insurance coverage was inadequate to cover today's claims, The Times reported.
Lawyers familiar with the negotiations told The Times the cases heading toward settlements would pay out an average of at least $1 million per claim and would resolve many incidents alleged to have occurred during Mahony's tenure.
Plaintiffs' attorneys have estimated that resolving all of the cases could top $1 billion. In December 2004, the Diocese of Orange settled about 90 priest abuse lawsuits for about $100 million.
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