The New York archdiocese’s lawsuit, filed in New York, charges that the Insurance Co. of North America, a subsidiary of Chubb Group of Insurance Cos., breached its contract with the archdiocese, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Chubb said it wouldn’t cover a legal claim concerning a lawsuit from a man who alleged sexual abuse by two clerics in the 1970s.
“Rather than honor its contractual obligation under the insurance policies they issued, Chubb has advised the archdiocese that it will not stand behind its insurance policies and contractual obligations,” an archdiocese spokesman said.
Chubb’s letter of denial said the accuser “alleges to have sustained injury that was expected and/or intended from the standpoint of the archdiocese,” and so did not fall under covered policy, the New York Law Journal reports.
The archdiocese’s attorneys countered that this misinterprets the accuser’s claim. They argued that the wording did not allege the archdiocese expected or intended sexual abuse.
The alleged abuse victim’s expected lawsuit against the archdiocese has not yet been filed but can become active when the one-year window opens in August.
Previous proposed versions of New York’s law on sexual abuse claims shielded public institutions including public schools from lawsuits. However, such lawsuits are allowed under the version that became law.
The New York Catholic Conference supported these changes allowing lawsuits against public institutions and did not oppose the final bill, Dennis Poust, Director of the New York Catholic Conference, told CNA.
James R. Marsh, an attorney representing 40 plaintiffs against the archdiocese, told the news site Crain’s New York Business that the lawsuit against insurers is “an unequivocal sign that the church is getting serious about dealing with its exposure.”
“With the New York Archdiocese facing significant financial liability after decades of heartbreaking sexual abuse, it appears that it is beginning the process of addressing its financial challenges head-on,” Marsh said. “That’s just what this filing represents: an institution seeking to ensure that liability is fairly shared with its own insurance companies.”
Michael Pfau, a lawyer representing 50 alleged victims in the New York archdiocese and 500 alleged victims around the state, told the New York Daily News it is not uncommon for insurance companies to initially balk at paying.
“This is a very positive step. We want to see the archdiocese secure coverage,” Pfau said, characterizing the lawsuit as “an acknowledgement that the Archdiocese of New York has enormous potential exposure.”
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
A law similar to New York’s has been passed in New Jersey, and Catholic institutions could face a wave of lawsuits there.
In October 2016, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York launched The Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program as an arbitration process for victims. The archdiocese presented the program as a way for abuse victims to secure compensation more easily than through the courts. The arbitration process was presented as having lower standards of evidence to secure compensation, though participants in the program waived their right to future civil action.
More than 200 individuals applied for compensation before a November 2017 deadline. Scores of individuals received compensation totaling in the tens of millions of dollars.
It was in this process that an alleged victim of then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick came forward, the New Yorker magazine reported in April.
The New York archdiocese’s further inquiry led to the June 2018 announcement that McCarrick, the former Archbishop of Washington, had been credibly accused of sexual abuse when he was a priest of the archdiocese.
In September 2018 the New York attorney general’s office issued subpoenas to all eight Catholic dioceses in the state, asking for documents related to sexual abuse allegations and the Church’s response to them.