As many as 300 potential sexual abuse cases against the Roman Catholic dioceses of Los Angeles and Orange counties were ordered funneled into a single courtroom today in a move that church lawyers said could help settle all the claims by year's end.
"It is the desire of the archbishop of Los Angeles to get this to be part of our past and no longer part of our present or our future," J. Michael Hennigan, an attorney for the archdiocese, said during a court hearing on a motion to transfer cases to a single judge At stake is the extent of church liability and the equitable distribution of insurance covering wrongdoing, estimates of which range from $150 million to $500 million or more among the 250 to 300 people expected to make claims of sexual abuse by priests in the Los Angeles area.
"This is about survival," said plaintiff's lawyer Raymond P. Boucher.
"If 10 of these cases go to trial, the archdiocese is out of business," said Boucher, whose firm represents more than 100 clients.
By consolidating the cases, one judge can review the church's insurance coverage, determine the proper compensation for victims and oversee the disbursement of funds, attorneys said.