Diocese offers settlement to 150 sexual abuse victims

In our post on December 2, we discussed the sexual abuse case against a parish and defrocked priest Francis DeLuca for sexual abuse that transpired in the Wilmington, Delaware, Diocese. That case involved a $30 million verdict against the priest and the parish. However, the case did not involve the Wilmington Diocese because it filed for bankruptcy in 2009 when it was facing a large amount of sexual abuse lawsuits dating as far back as the 1950s.

When a diocese files for bankruptcy, it makes lawsuits pending against it more difficult for plaintiffs to pursue because all claims are then controlled by the bankruptcy court. Earlier this month, the Wilmington Diocese offered $74 million to settle 150 claims of sexual abuse by its priests. The diocese increased its offer from approximately $55 million after learning of the verdict against DeLuca and St. Elizabeth Parish. That verdict found the parish was responsible for about $3 million of the $30 million in damages to the abuse victim.

Payouts under the new offer would reportedly vary depending on the abuse suffered by the victim and would be between $75,000 and $3 million to each plaintiff. Under the terms of the settlement, each victim would need to agree to drop any civil lawsuits against the diocese and its parishes.

Thomas Neuberger, the attorney representing 98 of the abuse victims, has stated the diocese and the parishes within it have a combined $1.7 billion in resources and that the victims had been working on a settlement of $1.3 million per victim with the previous bishop before he died in 2009. The present offer would pay an average of about $490,000 per victim. "We're almost half way to what a reasonable offer would be," said Neuberger.

Source: Westlaw News and Insight, "Wilmington diocese offers $74 million abuse settlement," Tom Hals and Terry Baynes, 1/11/2011

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