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After many painful years of settlement talks, the Diocese of San Diego finally decided to pay $198.1 million to the sexual abuse victims of its priests. Well it’s about time. The good news is that this was the second largest settlement against a diocese in the United States. The over 140 victims who were the plaintiffs in the case each was given an average of $1.38 million, which brought each victim an average of $825,000 after lawyer's fees were subtracted. The diocese had recently tried to settle the cases for $95 million, but that offer was not taken, and for good reason.
Most victims were pleased by the settlement, however, many expressed annoyance at the church for stretching the settlement talks out so long. There were also ongoing allegations that the church leadership had purposely concealed the allegations against abusive priests, and this obviously didn’t sit well with most.
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The diocese filed for bankruptcy protection a few months prior to the pay out had been reached using the argument it had become the ideal way to ensure compensation for the victims. However, the bankruptcy case was dismissed after several months. The diocese ended up being on the hook to pay for $107 million of the total settlement with $76 million coming from their insurance provider and nearly $15 million coming from the Diocese of San Bernardino, a previous part of the Diocese of San Diego. The San Diego diocese also paid $40 million through sales of real estate.
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The diocese wanted its parishioners to provide money in the amount of $25 million to help pay for the settlement deal. Bishop Robert H. Brom asked for the donations in a letter to parishioners in October of 2007 alerting them that the diocese might have to put up for sale its home office along with a seminary if they were not able raise enough money in contributions. Bishop Brom had earlier requested each of the priests in the diocese to contribute 30 days salary in a push of goodwill to the 144 plaintiffs involved in the sexual abuse settlement deal.
The Diocese of San Diego declined to release the personnel records of the forty eight priests involved in the case. The diocese battled the release in the court until October 2010 when a San Diego County Superior Court judge directed the production of thousands of pages of documents.
Bishop Robert McElroy assumed leadership of the Diocese of San Diego in 2015, and fortunately he accepted reforms to protect children inside the dioceses parishes. Now, every employee needs to go through a comprehensive background check, and parents and children are educated about the warning signs of abusive priests and the way to recognize actions that is inappropriate. Hopefully this trend will continue in the United States and safeguard children.
Priest Sexual Abuse Lawyers California