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Catholic Church sues insurers as opening for filing lawsuits under Child Victims Act draws near

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The New York Archdiocese has sued its insurance companies to demand legal protection and coverage as it braces for exposure it will face once sex abuse victims begin filing lawsuits next month under New York’s Child Victims Act.

The complaint by the archdiocese, filed last week in Manhattan Supreme Court, lists more than two dozen insurers as defendants, and claims “the insurers … intend to dispute, limit and/or deny coverage for claims and lawsuits alleging sexual abuse and physical abuse.” Several of the defendants listed in the complaint are members of the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.

Michael Pfau, a lawyer whose firm represents 50 alleged victims within the archdiocese and 500 victims around the state, said the lawsuit seems to show the church is getting ready to absorb significant legal fees and liabilities over abuse claims.

“It’s not uncommon for the insurance companies — at least initially — to balk at paying,” Pfau said. “This is a very positive step. We want to see the archdiocese secure coverage.”

Among other provisions, the law includes a one-year “look-back window” that allows those who weren’t able to sue in the past to file fresh claims. That window opens in August.

“It is an acknowledgement that the Archdiocese of New York has enormous potential exposure,” Pfau said. “The statute of limitations is the major defense they use around the country. They cannot assert that here.”

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