Archdiocese Postpones Abuse Settlement Offer

By Eric Convey and Tom Mashberg
Boston Herald [Boston MA]
June 26, 2003

The Archdiocese of Boston said yesterday it would miss a self-imposed Friday deadline for making a multimillion dollar offer to settle hundreds of clergy sex abuse cases.

The announcement prompted exasperated plaintiffs' lawyers to threaten to resume legal action on Monday.

"Without specific information regarding where they are (in the process), we have no choice but to recommend to our clients that we go forward and litigate," said Robert Sherman, an attorney for many of the 500 accusers whose cases have been on hold for four months at the archdiocese's request.

Church officials could not be reached yesterday, but several lawyers involved in the process said the archdiocese's law firm asked yesterday for an extension of the stand-down period that expires tomorrow.

"Certainly it's not what we expected, and it's not what we expected particularly in light of Bishop (Richard G.) Lennon's public comments," Sherman said.

Lennon, the acting administrator overseeing the archdiocese, said when seeking the stand-down period that "the Archdiocese of Boston and I personally remain committed to reaching a fair and equitable resolution of these cases."

He went even further last week during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops summer meeting in St. Louis, telling reporters that he hoped there would be major developments in the case this week.

While the archdiocese has yet to put a dollar figure on the expected offer, lawyers and officials involved in the case on both sides predicted the total would fall between $35 million and $50 million.

In return for the money, most of which would come from two insurers, 500 alleged victims would drop their civil cases.

Even if a dollar figure is established by the archdiocese and its insurers, a key factor for plaintiffs considering whether to accept the offer will be the formula used to apportion the money case-by-case, said Carmen Durso, a lawyer representing alleged victims.

"We represent many different individuals with many different circumstances and many different concerns and problems . . . there has to be sufficient information as to what the offer is," Durso said.

Even $50 million might not be enough, he said. "Basically what they're looking for is a volume discount because the enormity of what they've done is so great that there's not enough money to pay for it all."


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