Saturday, July 14, 2007

LA: The Settlement

In an agreement that would shatter every known record for clergy sex-abuse cases to an exponential degree, word from the West says that the archdiocese of Los Angeles will ink a deal settling 500 suits for a total just upwards of $600 million.

Expected to be announced on Monday, the settlement would lay to rest all but a handful of the torrent of litigation which has hung over the nation's largest diocese -- 535 cases have remained unresolved, with the first trial dates scheduled for earlier this month.

A call to the archdiocesan offices seeking comment was not returned as of post time.... More as it unfolds.

SVILUPPO: The wire kicks in....
The archdiocese and its insurers will pay between $600 million and $650 million to about 500 plaintiffs — an average of $1.2 million to $1.3 million per person. The settlement also calls for the release of confidential priest personnel files after review by a judge assigned to oversee the litigation, the sources said.

The settlements would push the total amount paid out by the U.S. church since 1950 to more than $2 billion, with about a quarter of that coming from the Los Angeles archdiocese.

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.

Lead plaintiffs' attorney Ray Boucher confirmed the sides were working on a deal but would not discuss specifics. He said that negotiations would continue through the weekend and that there were still many unresolved aspects.

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. "It's been a long five years."

The settlement would be the largest ever by a Roman Catholic archdiocese since the clergy sexual abuse scandal erupted in Boston in 2002. The largest payout so far has been by the Diocese of Orange, Calif., in 2004, for $100 million.

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

The Los Angeles archdiocese, its insurers and various Roman Catholic orders have paid more than $114 million to settle 86 claims so far.