People who say they were sexually abused by priests could receive more than $1.5 billion in damages from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles — more than any other U.S. diocese has paid to date, the Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday.
The settlement figure is based on a request by the lead attorney for hundreds of plaintiffs who live within the most populous U.S. archdiocese that Church officials set aside $3.1 million for each claimant in Los Angeles and the adjacent Diocese of Orange County just south of Los Angeles, the paper reported.
The church in Los Angeles faces about 500 child molestation claims, more than any other diocese in the country. The Orange County diocese faces 60 similar claims.
Raymond Boucher, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the Times the amount was in line with what a judge proposed during a secret, two-day hearing earlier this year. In court papers, Boucher said the church had $10 billion in liability coverage.
At least 20 insurance companies are involved in litigation on behalf of the church. Most of the suits have been consolidated into a single case in Southern California, which includes alleged incidents dating back to the 1950s.
An attorney for the archdiocese told the Times he thought the $1.5 billion figure was too high. A spokesman for the Los Angeles archdiocese was not immediately available for comment on Sunday.
Last year, the Archdiocese of Boston agreed to settle lawsuits by 544 plaintiffs alleging sexual abuse by clergy for $85 million, the Times reported. The archdiocese paid out the entire settlement amount and is now suing an insurance company in an attempt to recover some of the loss.
The church abuse scandal erupted in dioceses throughout the United States two years ago when files released in the case of defrocked priest John Geoghan showed that church leaders knew about the clergyman’s behavior but chose to shuttle him from parish to parish.