After marathon negotiations between the Diocese of Wilmington (DOW) and all four sets of attorneys for 146 state court survivors of childhood sexaul abuse by Roman Catholic priests, it was just announced that all counsel for the state court plaintiffs, counsel for the DOW and the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors are in agreement: READ BELOW
February 2, 2011
DIOCESE BANKRUPTCY SETTLES
Creditors are in agreement as follows -
1. A Trust for all survivor claimants will be Ordered by the Court, in which all survivor claimants will participate.
2. The Trust is initially funded by the DOW in the amount of $77,425,000 and all survivor claimants will receive awards from the Trust in about 30 days after final Court approvals of the DOW reorganization.
3. Later the Trust again will be funded by all judgments or settlements obtained against religious order defendants in the remaining 50 state court cases.
4. Survivor claimants then will receive later awards from the Trust, as it is again funded, in the same proportions which they initially received.
5. Retired Pennsylvania Judge Thomas Rutter of ADR Options will serve as the arbitrator who quickly will make individual awards to each survivor using an agreed upon set of factors set by the Official Committee.
6. The DOW has agreed to an unprecedented set of non-monetary obligations which open its secret archives, turn them over to the Committee, and institute procedures to see that child abuse does not reoccur.
7. The individual parish defendants of the DOW in the state court cases will receive appropriate dismissals or releases of the cases against them.
All this is subject to the approval of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Sontchi who is presiding over the DOW chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding, and who has been notified of this agreement.
A press conference on this matter will be held at these offices at 2:00 p.m. TODAY February 3rd. Survivors will attend and will be available for questions.
But for now, attorney Thomas S. Neuberger, state court co-counsel for 99 state court survivors, along with the Jacobs & Crumplar law firm stated: “After a seven year fight we are on our way to fair compensation for survivors. This is an average payment of $530,000 for each survivor. So we now turn our guns to the three remaining religious orders, Oblates, Capucians and Norbertines, from whom we expect to obtain in total about $80 million since they have vastly more insurance coverage than the DOW, which only had less than $25 million in insurance coverage.”
“Due to our long court battle there has now been more public exposure of church child abuse, misdeeds and evil practices here in Delaware than in any other state. Due to the public release of secret church archives which the Official Committee demanded, these records now will permanently see the light of day,” Neuberger concluded.
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, Del., agreed late Wednesday to settle for $77 million with 146 victims of sexual abuse by clergy members and to release internal church documents about how the church hierarchy handled the allegations of abuse.
The sticking point in the negotiations was not the money, but the documents, according to those involved. The victims insisted that the diocese release the documents uncensored, and make them publicly available on the Internet.
The committee and the diocese finally agreed that an arbitrator would settle disagreements over redactions before making the documents public.
The Wilmington diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009 in response to the abuse lawsuits, seeking a consolidated settlement. The monetary award is less than the settlements in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Calif., Boston and Covington, Ky., but includes more assurances for the victims that the promised documents will actually be released.
Delaware and California passed laws in recent years that allowed people alleging abuse to file lawsuits after the statute of limitations had expired. The Catholic Church in several other states, including New York, has led the fight against similar “window legislation.”
In Wilmington on Thursday, both sides said they were pleased with the agreement, which included a list of nonmonetary provisions.
The diocese agreed to have priests sign a statement every five years affirming that they are not aware of undisclosed abuse of minors. And the diocese will place plaques in its schools saying that abuse of children “shall not be tolerated.”
Matt Conaty, an abuse victim who served as co-chair of the creditors committee that negotiated on behalf of those abused, said, “We were seeking some measure of monetary justice, but that was secondary to the concrete child protection measures and the transparency.”
Mr. Conaty, who is 41 and works in newspaper marketing, said of the two principals accused of abuse at his old Catholic high school: “Would this plaque have stopped them? I doubt it, because I think they were sick and I think they were criminals. But there were teachers who knew there were red flags, and could have done more.”
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