California Catholic Dioceses Establish New Compensation Program for Child Abuse Victims
Six Catholic Dioceses in California recently established an independent compensation program for victims who were sexually abused as children by Diocesan priests. The California Independent Compensation Program (ICP) applies to claims involving abuse by Diocesan priests in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, along with the Dioceses of Fresno, Orange, Sacramento, San Bernardino, and San Diego. The participating Dioceses represent more than 10 million Catholics, about 80% of the Catholic population in California.
The ICP provides a non-adversarial alternative to traditional lawsuits for victims of sexual abuse who do not want to go to court. The program will maintain the confidentiality of information submitted by claimants, and claims will be processed more quickly than in the court system. Claimants will not have to give depositions or go to trial. The ICP will also require less evidence of abuse to obtain compensation than a traditional lawsuit, an important feature where claims may involve events which happened many years ago.
Although the program will protect the privacy of claimants, people who participate in the program will not have to sign a confidentiality agreement. In other words, if you want to discuss your experiences with other people, you will be free to do so.
The ICP does not have a citizenship requirement, so undocumented persons who were abused as minors are eligible to participate. Claim forms and other plan documents are available in Spanish upon request.
Claims are eligible for consideration even if the priest involved has never been charged or convicted of a sexual offense.
Participation in the program is voluntary, and victims of child abuse who prefer to pursue their claims in court are free to do so. After reviewing a claim, the plan administrators will make a settlement offer if they determine that the claim qualifies for payment. If claimants decide not to accept their offers, they may pursue their legal remedies in court. If they do accept their offers, however, they will not be able to sue the church or the responsible priest(s).
Victims of child abuse who do not want to be involved with the Church anymore may still participate in this program. Because the program is independent of the Dioceses, individuals may participate regardless of whether they are still affiliated with the Church.
Individuals may file claims regardless of when their abuse occurred, but there are deadlines for registration and filing claims. Persons who have not previously notified the Dioceses of their claims must register by January 31, 2020, and complete their claim submissions by March 31, 2020.
Individuals who have previously settled or litigated a sexual abuse claim to final resolution against the Church are not eligible to participate in this program, subject to this exception: if your claim was dismissed on the basis that it was time barred because the California statute of limitations had expired, you may still submit a claim under this program.
Participation is limited to claims involving Diocese priests. Claims involving members of religious orders, lay employees of the participating Dioceses, or abuse by priests which occurred in other Dioceses, are not eligible for compensation.
The program will be administered by Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille Biros, two nationally recognized claim administrators who have been responsible for similar compensation programs created by Dioceses in other states, such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Colorado. The Administrators will review claims, determine whether they are eligible for compensation, and decide the amount of any settlement offers.
Although you do not have to have an attorney to participate in this program, skilled counsel can:
- help you register and file your claim forms
- help you file supporting documents that will increase your chances of obtaining an appropriate offer
- determine whether you should accept the program’s settlement offer, if any
- assist you in filing a legal claim in Court if you do not qualify for compensation under the program, or prefer not to participate in the program
Even if your claim is not compensable under the plan, you may still have legal remedies, even if the abuse happened many years ago. If you were sexually abused as a minor by a priest, call us for a free initial consultation at 304-347-5050 (local) or 877-341-2595 (toll free). You may also contact us through our website, www.jfhumphreys.com.