L.A. Archdiocese Agrees to $600 Million Abuse Settlement

By Gillian Flaccus
Associated Press
Sunday, July 15, 2007

LOS ANGELES, July 14 -- The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles will settle its clergy abuse cases for at least $600 million, by far the largest payout in the church's sexual abuse scandal, the Associated Press learned Saturday.

Attorneys for the archdiocese and alleged victims are expected to announce the deal Monday, the day the first of more than 500 clergy abuse cases was scheduled for jury selection, said two people with knowledge of the agreement. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because the settlement had not been made public.

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 calls for the release of confidential priest personnel files after a review by a judge assigned to oversee the litigation, the sources said.

It was not immediately clear how the payout will be split among the insurers, the archdiocese and several Roman Catholic religious orders. A judge must sign off on the agreement, and final details are being worked out.

Lead plaintiff's attorney Ray Boucher said that negotiations will continue through the weekend.

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

"The archdiocese will be in court Monday morning," he said.

The accord would be the largest 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 about 90 claims. The Archdiocese of Boston agreed in 2003 to pay $85 million for 552 cases, and the Diocese of Covington, Ky., agreed last year to pay $84 million to settle about 360 claims. Facing a flood of abuse claims, five dioceses -- in Tucson; Spokane, Wash.; Portland, Ore.; Davenport, Iowa, and San Diego -- have sought bankruptcy protection.

This spring, the Archdiocese of Portland agreed to pay about $52 million to 175 victims, while setting aside another $20 million for anyone who comes forward later.

The Diocese of Spokane recently emerged from bankruptcy protection after agreeing to pay $48 million to settle about 175 claims.

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

The largest of those settlements came in December, when the archdiocese reached a $60 million agreement with 45 people whose claims dated from before the mid-1950s or after 1987 -- periods when the archdiocese had little or no sexual abuse insurance. Several religious orders in California have also reached multimillion-dollar settlements in recent months, including the Carmelites, the Franciscans and the Jesuits.

The resolution of more than 500 other lawsuits against the archdiocese, however, had remained elusive despite years of legal wrangling. Most of the outstanding lawsuits were generated by a 2002 state law that revoked for one year the statute of limitations for reporting sexual abuse.

Cardinal Roger Mahony recently told parishioners that the archdiocese is selling its high-rise administrative building and considering the sale of about 50 other nonessential church properties to raise funds for a settlement.

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