A landmark $30-million settlement has been reached in a class-action suit that saw former students of the Montreal School for the Deaf bring allegations of sexual abuse against the Clerics of St-Viateur and the Institut Raymond-Dewar .

The settlement — the largest ever awarded in Quebec for sexual abuse — avoids a looming trial that was to start in September and would have forced the claimants to revisit painful memories of violent sexual assaults that they say were commonplace at the school between 1940 and 1982.

More than 150 former students have come forward to say they were abused at the school.

"We are extremely hopeful that this will allow them some peace of mind, that it will allow them to turn the page, and will allow them to improve their lives going forward," said Robert Kugler, the lawyer who represented the former students.

The former all-boys boarding school was opened and run by the Clerics of St-Viateur, a Montreal-based religious order.

It became the Institut Raymond-Dewar in the early 1980s.

Kugler said the defendants likely opted to settle rather than go to trial.

"Everybody was well aware of the proof that we were going to be making at this trial through victims, through abusers who are still alive, and through experts," he said.

The suit identified 38 abusers, mostly religious staff and some lay workers. 

Only a handful of the accused were still alive at the time the suit was initiated in 2010.

The $30-million settlement includes an earlier $20-million agreement with the Clerics of St-Viateur and a $10-million agreement with the Insititut Raymond-Dewar that was recently obtained through mediation.