In what may be a first, the settlement allows for further litigation against insurance companies for the diocese.
From The New York Times:
The Diocese of Camden, N.J., said on Tuesday that it had agreed to pay $87.5 million to settle claims made by hundreds of people who accused clergy members of sexually abusing them, one of the largest such settlements involving the Catholic Church in the United States.
In what may be a first for such litigation, the ultimate payout to the plaintiffs could be substantially higher, lawyers representing them said, because the settlement allows for further litigation against insurance companies for the diocese and related entities like parishes and schools.
“This is a triumph of courage, with all credit to the survivors for staying unified and strong,” Jeff Anderson, a lawyer for about a quarter of the roughly 300 plaintiffs, said.
In a statement announcing the settlement, Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan, the leader of the diocese, said, “I want to express my sincere apology to all those who have been affected by sexual abuse in our diocese.”
“My prayers go out to all survivors of abuse,” Bishop Sullivan added, “and I pledge my continuing commitment to ensure that this terrible chapter in the history of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, never happens again.”
The agreement comes about three years after New Jersey became one of a number of states to extend its civil statute of limitations, so that people who said they had been sexually abused as children could sue. New York took a similar step the same year.
The settlement also follows a 2020 bankruptcy filing by the diocese, which has 62 parishes and serves some 500,000 Catholics in six southern New Jersey counties. That filing came amid a growing number of abuse claims.
By then, Bishop Sullivan had named 56 priests and a deacon connected to the Camden diocese who had been credibly accused of sexually abusing children. The revelation was part of a broader disclosure by Catholic bishops in New Jersey that nearly 200 priests had been accused of committing such abuse in the state.
Under the settlement’s terms, the $87.5 million will go into a trust and be paid out over four years, according to the diocese’s statement. Individual payouts will vary, the plaintiffs’ lawyers said, but the average per person would be around $300,000.