Rochester Diocese seeks legal distance – InsuranceNewsNet

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Lawyers for the Diocese of Rochester have asked a judge to clear them of responsibility for around 75 of the complaints filed by victims of sexual abuse against them.

In the petitions filed in US Bankruptcy Court, the diocese argued that the alleged abusers named in those 75 claims were not employed or supervised by the diocese. Most of the claims in dispute relate to members of religious orders or lay employees who worked in Catholic high schools or other institutions.

The motions argue that it is these institutions, or the religious orders that ran them, that bear the responsibility for resolving these claims.

The diocese filed for bankruptcy protection in September 2019just a month later New York State opened a one-year legal window to file civil lawsuits for past sexual abuse cases. As part of these proceedings, the diocese must resolve 506 complaints alleging sexual abuse filed on behalf of 471 people.

Fifty-eight of the 75 claims currently in dispute related to alleged abuse in Catholic schools, including the Aquin Institute (15 complaints), Bishop Kearney High School (14), Cardinal Mooney High School (13), McQuaid Jesuit High School (11), Notre Dame High School in Elmira (2), Mount Carmel High School in Auburn (1), Nazareth Hall (1) and Sacred Heart Academy (1).

Other claims relate to abuses that allegedly took place at Villa Saint-Joseph, St. Michael’s Missiona Sisters of Mercy convent and retirement home Canandaigua. Two of the claims name a chaplain who worked at Park Ridge Hospital. Two others allege abuse in churches that are not members of the diocese, Spiritus Christi and the Mount Carmel Deliverance Center Church. And a handful of claims name abusers whom the diocese says it cannot identify or who were never members of the diocese.

The latest petitions, filed last Friday, do not seek to completely dismiss the abuse allegations, a spokesperson for the diocese said in a statement. They are simply asking a judge to decide that the diocese should not be responsible for paying a settlement.

“It should be noted that in doing so, the Diocese does not question the veracity of these allegations, but rather affirms that these specific allegations focus on persons or entities that were not and are not under the control. control or direction of Diocese of Rochester“, reads the press release.

A hearing on these motions is scheduled for 11 a.m. October 12 before WE bankruptcy judge Paul Warren.

Disputed claims

Lawyers for abuse victims say they plan to oppose the motions and hold the diocese responsible for settling those claims.

Jason Amala of PCVA Law, which represents several of the plaintiffs, said each of the claims will have to be considered on its merits, but he doesn’t think the diocese should be automatically released from liability for abuses that occurred in non-diocesan schools.

“The diocese wants to say that it is not responsible for these [members of] religious orders if they were abusing children, and it’s just not the law, Amala said. “A diocese can very well be held responsible for abuses committed by a member of a religious order.

Amala says he and the other plaintiffs’ attorneys will have to review the operating agreements between the diocese and those schools to get clarity on the relationship, but that even if the school were a separate institution, the diocese could still support some measure. legal. responsibility for these allegations of abuse.

“If you have custody or control of the child, through a school, for example, you have a duty and responsibility to protect them,” Amala said.

One of the questions in each case will be whether the diocese was made aware of the abuse at any of these schools at the time it was happening.

“Often if a religious order is working in the diocese and a parent complains or a child complains, most of the time that complaint will go to the diocese, not the religious order,” Amala said. “If the diocese receives a complaint about a priest from a religious order, it cannot simply ignore it. It is responsible if it does not take action to protect children.”

As part of the bankruptcy process, the diocese was required to hand over its “secret files,” internal documents containing information about allegations of abuse against its priests and nuns. While those records remain sealed from public view, Amala says attorneys can use them to determine what the diocese knew about the abuse allegations.

A likely outcome, Amala said, is that responsibility in many of these cases will be divided between the diocese, religious order and institutions, depending on the specific facts of each case.

Bankruptcy status

It’s been nearly three years since the diocese filed for bankruptcy and it’s unclear how long the process will take.

In May, the diocese offered to settle its federal bankruptcy case by paying nearly $148 million to survivors of child sexual abuse. Under this plan, its insurers would provide $107.25 million to settle all complaints. The diocese and its parishes would provide another $40.5 million create a trust fund to compensate victims of abuse.

A decision on that proposal is pending, but lawyers for abuse survivors have blasted the proposal, calling it a “clandestine deal” between the diocese and its insurers.

The diocese made a similar proposal in June 2021offering to contribute $35 million to a settlement fund. This proposal was rejected by US Bankruptcy Court Judge Paul Warren.

In June 2021the parties said Judge Warren that they were at an impasse, filing a series of competing legal motions asking WE bankruptcy judge Paul Warren to intervene and complain that the other party was unreasonable in the court-ordered mediation process.

They were back in court in April to report that mediation efforts had again stalled, with each side asking Judge Warren to intervene and resolve the impasse. Therefore, Judge Warren ruled that cases that named individual parishes as defendants could have those claims adjudicated in state court.

“The diocese, insurance companies and survivors of abuse have reached a point where consensual resolution appears to be fading,” Warren wrote in her ruling.

Warren also noted that three of the abuse survivors who filed claims have died since the bankruptcy process began.

In its statement on the latest court filings, a spokesperson for the diocese said in-person mediation hearings would resume this week “in an ongoing effort to reach a consensual plan of reorganization that will provide fair compensation to those who have been wronged”. .”

“The Diocese reaffirms its intention to resolve this matter in a fair, charitable and timely manner,” the statement read. “We continue to pray for survivors of sexual abuse and renew our ongoing efforts to ensure that our protocols for a safe environment protect God’s children and all people from such tragic and sad situations.”

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