L.A. Church Abuse Case Tab Put at $660 Million

By Gillian Flaccus
Chicago Tribune [Los Angeles CA]
July 15, 2007,1,6168725.

Los Angeles — The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles reached a settlement agreement Saturday with more than 500 people who allege they were sexually abused by clergy, the main plaintiff's attorney told The Associated Press.

The deal is valued at $660 million, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity because the settlement had not been officially announced. It is by far the largest payout in the church's sexual abuse scandal, and it exceeded earlier reports from sources that the settlement would be $600 million to $650 million — $1.2 million to $1.3 million per plaintiff.

Attorneys for the archdiocese, the nation's largest, and the plaintiffs will release a joint statement Sunday morning and hold a news conference Monday, said plaintiff's attorney Ray Boucher.

It wasn't immediately clear how the payout would be split among the insurers, the archdiocese and several Roman Catholic religious orders. A judge must sign off on the agreement, and final details were being ironed out.

Tod Tamberg, archdiocese spokesman, declined to comment on any settlement details.

Steven Sanchez, 47, was one of the plaintiffs set to go to trial Monday. He was expected to testify in the trial involving the late Rev. Clinton Hagenbach.

Sanchez, a financial adviser, said the past few months have been especially difficult because he had to repeat his story of abuse for depositions with his attorneys and archdiocese attorneys in preparation for trial.

"We're 48 hours away from starting the trial and I've been spending a lot of time getting emotionally prepared to take them on, but I'm glad," he said.

The settlement would be the largest ever by a Roman Catholic archdiocese since the clergy sexual abuse scandal erupted in Boston in 2002.

Among the largest total payouts was $100 million in 2004 by the Diocese of Orange, Calif., to settle 90 claims. The Archdiocese of Boston agreed in 2003 to pay $84 million for 552 cases, roughly the same figure the Diocese of Covington, Ky., agreed last year to pay to settle about 360 claims.

Facing a flood of claims, five dioceses — Tucson, Ariz.; Spokane, Wash.; Portland, Ore.; Davenport, Iowa, and San Diego — sought bankruptcy protection.


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