Lawyer: Victims Should Avoid Class Actions

By Ian Fairclough
The Chronicle-Herald
January 18, 2012

Individual lawsuits better for healing from sexual abuse

Victims of serial sexual abusers should consider filing their own lawsuits instead of getting involved in class actions, says an Ontario lawyer who has represented people assaulted by priests.

"Some of it has to be based upon your personal philosophy; I just don't believe in class-action suits for victims of sexual abuse, and particularly childhood victims who have been abused by priests," Paul Ledroit said Tuesday.

"I can't think of a worse thing that you could do to a child."

Ledroit represents half a dozen people in southwestern Nova Scotia who are suing the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth and an Inverness County man who is suing the Diocese of Antigonish.

He said his prime aim is to help people with their personal healing.

"If a person just wants money, I tell them to go elsewhere," Ledroit said.

But he will help someone "if they're interested in working through the process of the hours that it takes to tell me their story and write it down and to go through the discovery process and be cross-examined by the other lawyer as to what happened and to get into therapy."

He said victims of sexual abuse by priests "all suffer, to a greater or lesser extent, from a myriad of post-traumatic stress disorder problems."

"Working through it and coming clean and facing the demons is the only way that you can lessen the wound. A class action just doesn't provide that; it's not individualistic enough."

While class actions pay out on the basis of the type of abuse, Ledroit said that doesn't provide for other factors, such as whether there was family support that let someone talk about the abuse, or whether they kept it to themselves and they were susceptible to mental health issues.

"To put people on a meat chart on a sexual abuse case is not in keeping with my personal philosophy."

He said some class actions include a clause that if the number of claimants gets over a certain number, both parties can bail out of the agreement. But once the payments start, that can't be undone.

Ledroit's comments come after word last week that an influx of claimants was cutting into the amount of money from the Diocese of Antigonish available to the original list of victims of sexual abuse by priests.

Last November, a letter sent to members of a class action against the diocese said the number of alleged victims joining the suit had reached 140, almost double the predicted 80 claimants. That meant the original victims are only getting about 60 per cent of the amount they thought they would receive.

The $15-million settlement was reached in September 2009 for people victimized by clerical abuse in the diocese between 1950 and 2009.

The last of the three payments to members of the class action is due in November.



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