Churches in New York face financial strain when sexual abuse lawsuits flood courts soon

Journal News

A half-century of pent-up anger and distress over sexual misconduct by New York’s Roman Catholic spiritual leaders will culminate soon.

Faith and money will collide.

Under a new state law, lawsuits seeking damages for past acts of rape or sexual abuse of children can be filed during a one-year window that opens Aug. 14.

Hundreds of abuse lawsuits across New York state's eight dioceses are expected to name Catholic priests and other ministers, as well as the higher-ups that victims accuse of protecting and covering up for the abusers.

All eight New York dioceses are about to face a legal onslaught like never before. Every diocese in the state is facing legal damages that could total in the tens or even hundreds of millions.

Some of New York’s eight Catholic dioceses, likely will opt to declare bankruptcy, according to several of the lawyers who are poised to file abuse lawsuits.

Jason Amala of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala serves more than 500 clients in New York. Around 175 sex abuse survivors are from churches, while the rest of his clients allege abuse from well-known secular institutions, including hospitals, the Boys and Girls clubs and the Boy Scouts.

The New York Archdiocese's primary insurer, Chubb, recently denied its coverage in a recent sex abuse suit against it. In response, the Archdiocese filed a preemptive motion, warning 32 of its insurers that they would be held accountable.

The move had attorneys like James Marsh, of New York-based Marsh Law, applauding.

“This is an unequivocal sign that the Church is getting serious about dealing with its exposure," Marsh said. "With the New York Archdiocese facing significant financial liability after decades of heartbreaking sexual abuse, it appears that it is beginning the process of addressing its financial challenges head on."

If the New York Archdiocese loses against its insurers, that could set a precedent for denying coverage of dioceses in upstate New York, Pfau said.

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Filed Under  Catholic Church  Child Victims Act (CVA)  Childhood Sexual Abuse  News 

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