Insurers refuse to meet damage settlements in Los Angeles abuse cases

Insurers for the dioceses of Los Angeles and Orange are balking at paying the possible damages claimed by hundreds of people, who say they were sexually abused by Catholic priests.

According to newly released court documents from pre-trial proceedings, the damages in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles alone could exceed $1.5 billion, reported the Los Angeles Times. This amount far exceeds what any other U.S. diocese has paid to date.

There are more than 500 child-molestation claims against Los Angeles priests and another 60 against priests from the Diocese of Orange – both dioceses are part of the same litigation.

Damages, if proven, could be paid both by insurers and from church assets. However, The plaintiffs’ lead lawyer has requested that insurers pay at least $3.1 million per individual claimant.

While most of the pretrial proceedings are held in secret, court documents indicate that at least 20 insurance companies are involved, covering church liability since 1950.

Attorney Raymond P. Boucher says the amount is justified. However, many of the insurers involved seemingly don’t agree.

In the pretrial settlements for the Diocese of Orange, claimants’ lawyers have already accused insurers of failing to make a meaningful contribution to what the diocese is offering in damages.

Lawyers for Los Angeles are also in dispute with their own insurers over "the existence, nature and amount of coverage," although Boucher has estimated that the archdiocese had about $10 billion in potential insurance coverage.

According to court documents, retrieved by the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Insurance Co., has said it might try to protect its assets by asserting that the Los Angeles Archdiocese intentionally put children in harm's way.

According to other court documents, some companies may argue that the Los Angeles and Orange dioceses broke their insurance contracts by allowing known pedophiles to remain in active ministry. Other companies had required the church to notify them of abuse allegations so they could stop liability coverage for claims filed up to five years after such notification.

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