Insurers Settle Clergy Sex Abuse Claims with Massachusetts Diocese

July 7, 2008

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, has reached an $8.5 million settlement with insurance companies to pay claims filed by people who were sexually abused by priests.

Mark Dupont, a spokesman for the diocese, said $3.5 million will be used to pay back the diocese for a portion of the $7.7 million it paid in 2004 to settle sexual abuse claims filed by 47 people.

The remaining $5 million will be used to establish a settlement fund for 61 other victims, Dupont said. The victims are expected to receive amounts ranging from $5,000 to $200,000 after completing an arbitration hearing, Dupont said.

In 2005, the diocese sued five insurance carriers after they argued they had no obligation to cover so-called “negligent supervision” claims if diocesan officials were aware of sexual abuse by its priests. The diocese denied supervisors knew about the abuse.

The lawsuit led to the release of diocese and law enforcement files on clergy abuse investigations, including the unsolved murder of 13-year-old altar boy Daniel Croteau in the early 1970s.

“This is simply another small step in doing what we can, to try to, in some tangible way, address the unspeakable harm that was done,” Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell said in a statement.

Most of the abuse happened in the 1960s and 1970s, although some claims date back to the 1940s, Dupont said.

The diocese has paid a total of $12 million in settlement payments to clergy abuse victims since 2004, and an additional $1 million on counseling and other programs to assist victims, Dupont said.

People with pending claims about abuse that happened before October 1986 will be eligible to participate in the arbitration process. The insurance carriers stopped providing insurance after 1986.

As part of the settlement, the diocese agreed not to release the names of the five insurance companies, Dupont said.

In a news release issued May 2007, the diocese said the insurance carriers it sued included Travelers Insurance Co., Lloyds of London and Interstate Fire and Casualty. None of the companies returned calls seeking comment.

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