.- The Diocese of Charleston, in South Carolina, announced today the preliminary approval of an agreement to settle several child sexual abuse cases in advance. In a press release announcing the settlement, Bishop Robert Baker of Charleston expressed his tremendous desire to “heal the hurts” of those abused.
According to the diocese and the Richter & Haller law firm, which is handling cases for the claimants, A judge has signed the order giving preliminary approval to the agreement. It still must pass a Fairness Hearing for final approval.
The agreement will create two classes of plaintiffs, one for those born before August 30, 1980 who claim to have been abused by a clergy member as a minor, a second class of plaintiffs is for spouses and parents of those claiming abuse. A court appointed, neutral arbitrator will then review and validate each claim and determine a monetary award for each victim.
The Diocese will set forth and initial pool of $ 5 million dollars for victims, with the possibility of creating a second pool of $ 7 million, if the claims require.
“The demands of justice and the desire to heal the hurts of those abused by those sent to minister to them weigh heavily upon my heart,” the Charleston Bishop said today. “I deeply regret the anguish of any individual who has suffered the scourge of childhood abuse and am firmly committed to a just resolution of any instance in which a person who holds the responsibility of protector has become a predator.”
“I believe that a proactive approach to healing the evil that has been done is not only constructive, but absolutely necessary,” Bishop Baker added.
Lawrence Richter, lead counsel for the claimants, said, “Hopefully this class settlement will bring to a close this sad and shameful chapter, and enable victims to have some closure, compensation, and peace. These brave and long suffering victims who have stood firm and demanded accountability should be applauded. These individuals can never be fully compensated, nor their suffering taken away. I anticipate they will find comfort in the hope that their actions may serve as a deterrent to future victimization by those who hold a public trust.”
According to the press release, there were significant moral requirements as well as civil and ecclesiastical legal issues that were addressed and worked through in the process of coming to this final agreement.
“Throughout the negotiations, the victims’ needs were always in the forefront of everyone’s mind. The good will with which the parties worked to bring this settlement to fruition cannot be overstated,” the attorney and bishop agreed.
The Diocese of Charleston is encouraging victims to come forward and to file their claim by contacting Class Counsel at Richter & Haller, Attorneys and Counselors at Law, at (843) 849-6000.
According to the diocese, the class action agreement is another step forward in meeting the demands of justice and the needs of victims. Since 1994, the Diocese of Charleston has instituted strict policies in regard to hiring staff and investigating allegations of child sexual abuse.