L.A. archdiocese to pay $600M to settle clergy abuse claims: report

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles will settle its clergy abuse cases for at least $600 million, by far the largest payout in the church's sexual abuse scandal, the Associated Press reported Saturday.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles willsettle its clergy abuse cases for at least $600 million, by far the largest payout in the church's sexual abuse scandal in the U.S., the Associated Press reported Saturday.

Plaintiff Steven Sanchez, seen in his home on Saturday, will no longer need to testify in the sexual abuse scandal. ((Gus Ruelas/Associated Press))

Attorneys for the archdiocese and the plaintiffs are expected to announce the deal Monday, the day the first of more than 500 clergy abuse cases was scheduled for jury selection, according to two people with knowledge of the agreement.

The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the settlement had not been made public.

The Los Angeles diocese, the largest in the United States, faces some 500 lawsuits from people who allege they were abused by about 200 priests and lay people dating as far back as the 1930s.

According to the Associated Press, the archdiocese and its insurers will pay a total of between $600 million and $650 million, or an average of $1.2 million to $1.3 million per person.

The settlement also calls for the release of confidential priest personnel files after review by a judge assigned to oversee the litigation, the sources said.

'A long five years'

It wasn't immediately clear how responsibility for the payout would be split among the insurers, the archdiocese and several Roman Catholic religious orders. A judge must sign off on the agreement, and final details were being ironed out.

Lead plaintiffs' attorney Ray Boucher confirmed the sides were working on a deal but he would not discuss specifics. He said negotiations would continue through the weekend and said there were still many unresolved aspects.

Tod Tamberg, an archdiocese spokesman, declined to comment on any settlement details.

"The archdiocese will be in court Monday morning," he said.

Steven Sanchez, 47, was one of the plaintiffs set to go to trial Monday. He was expected to testify in the trial involving the late Rev. Clinton Hagenbach.

Sanchez, a financial adviser, said the past few months have been especially difficult because he had to repeat his story of abuse for depositions with his attorneys and archdiocese attorneys in preparation for trial.

"We're 48 hours away from starting the trial and I've been spending a lot of time getting emotionally prepared to take them on, but I'm glad," he said. "It's been a long five years."

The settlement would be the largest ever by a Roman Catholic archdiocese since the clergy sexual abuse scandal erupted in Boston in 2002.

Other multimillion-dollar payouts

Among the largest total payouts was $100 million in 2004 by the diocese of Orange, Calif., to settle 90 claims.

The Archdiocese of Boston agreed in 2003 to pay $84 million for 552 cases, roughly the same figure the Diocese of Covington, Ky., agreed last year to pay to settle about 360 claims.

Facing a flood of abuse claims, five dioceses— Tucson, Ariz., Spokane, Wash., Portland, Ore., Davenport, Iowa, and San Diego— sought bankruptcy protection.

Last month, the archdiocese of Portland agreed to pay about $52 million to 175 people, while setting aside another $20 million for anyone who comes forward in the future.

The diocese of Spokane, Wash., also recently emerged from bankruptcy protection after agreeing to pay $48 million to settle about 150 claims.

The Los Angeles archdiocese, its insurers and various Roman Catholic orders have paid more than $114 million to settle 86 claims so far.

The largest of those came in December, when the archdiocese reached a $60 million settlement with 45 people whose claims dated from before the mid-1950s and after 1987— periods when it had little or no sexual abuse insurance. Several religious orders in California have also reached multimillion-dollar settlements in recent months.