An Expected Surge of Sexual Abuse Lawsuits May Cost Catholic Church Billions
December 2, 2019, the Washington Post reported that due to the legislation in many states suspending the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse lawsuits, the Catholic Church might find itself spending billions on settlements.
Associated Press (AP) reporting indicated that the surge in lawsuits in places such as New York, New Jersey, and California could exceed 5,000 new cases. These payouts alone, the AP suggests, could exceed $4 billion. These three states have some of the longest “lookback” windows that allow victims of child sex abuse to file lawsuits no matter how old the claims are. If you were abused as a child by the Catholic church or the boy scouts – ever – you have time to file a lawsuit in these states.
Victims Finally Have the Opportunity to Pursue Justice After Sexual Abuse
For survivors of sexual abuse like Nancy Holling-Lonneker, the lookback window is a blessing. The 71-year-old plans to take full advantage of California’s 3-year period. She claims that she was raped repeatedly by a priest beginning when she was seven years old. The abuse, she said, took place in a confessional booth. She told the Washington Post, “It’s like a whole new beginning for me. The survivors coming forward now have been holding on to this horrific experience all of their lives.”
For 57-year-old Ramon Mercado, the death of his devoutly Catholic mother motivated him. With her gone, he decided to explore confronting the priest who he says molested him hundreds of times when he was a child, over three years. An ad on TV prompted him to call a lawyer and try to take advantage of New York’s one-year lookback window to file a claim.
These are only two stories of hundreds of people contacting law firms across the nation. Some allegations of abuse that lawyers are hearing involve priests already on the credibly accused lists. Others include priests long dead and never investigated. These cases present challenges, and the lawyers who are handling them are working tirelessly to track down witnesses, paperwork, and other evidence that can help victims obtain closure.
How Will the Catholic Church Respond to The Demand For Reparations From Thousands of Victims of Sexual Abuse?
How will the Catholic church handle the expense of potential payouts? After losing their battle lobbying against the new statute of limitations laws, the church is considering victim compensation funds and bankruptcy. In several dioceses, victim compensation funds already exist. They can be utilized by sexual abuse victims instead of seeking compensation through the court system.
Approximately twenty Catholic dioceses across the country and one diocese in New York have filed for bankruptcy. The diocese of Rochester filed for bankruptcy after the one-year lookback window opened in August, “listing claims from alleged abuse survivors and other creditors as much as $500 million. Assets to pay that are estimated at no more than one-fifth that amount.” The diocese of Buffalo may soon follow the same path. The Buffalo diocese has been paying 100 victims of sexual abuse. How? By selling a million-dollar mansion that the diocese owned.
Impact of Church Bankruptcy Filings on Victims
If the Catholic church continues to file bankruptcy, it does not necessarily mean victims can’t recover money. It just means that they may receive less than they would have received in civil court or through a compensation fund. Collecting damages through bankruptcy proceedings and compensation funds have another drawback. They deprive victims of the opportunity to have their day in court, get answers to questions, and face their abusers. Victims of clergy sexual abuse want answers to some of the following questions:
- How did the church allow this to happen?
- Did they know about the sexual abuse?
- Did other people suffer?
- How high up did the scandal go?
Litigation is often the only way to get documentation and specific information. Some of the information is more important to many individuals than any compensation that may result. The information can provide closure.
Catholic Dioceses are Trying to Find Relief from Oncoming Litigation
Church officials are scrambling to find relief by considering bankruptcy, compensation funds, seeking help from their insurers, and mounting challenges to at least one of the extended statutes of limitations. In New York, Long island churches allege that New York’s law violates due process. With Catholic dioceses facing mounting legal and financial pressure, two lawsuits have been filed alleging the Vatican has some responsibility for the sexual abuse and cover-up that occurred in the catholic church. The Vatican has tremendous wealth that could satisfy the anticipated costs of sexual abuse claims filed in the US against the church.
Contact Our Sexual Abuse Lawyers at Alonso Krangle, LLP if a Priest Abused You as a Child
The statute of limitations on child sexual abuse claims has been lifted, and you still have time to consider filing a lawsuit against your abuser and the institution that protected him or her. Call our lawyers today at 800-403-6191 for a free evaluation of your clergy sexual abuse claim.