Clergy Abuse Lawsuit

Sexual abuse among the clergy of the Catholic Church has been rampant for decades. Many of the victims were too afraid to come forward and face their accusers until they were grown. Today, more than 6000 Catholic priests have been accused of child sexual abuse. These credible claims have led to numerous lawsuits and settlements for those who have survived this tragedy. It’s not too late to file a claim if you’re one of the victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Legislation to Protect the Victims

Many of the people filing these lawsuits have waited for decades to state their cases. Often, they wait until they are much older and even into adulthood before they feel ready to come forward. They may not have felt safe or were concerned that no one would believe them. Others may have waited until they went through therapy and dealt with the effects of the abuse before they could seek justice.

Another reason for the increase in lawsuits for clergy abuse is because of new laws that have been written and old laws that have been expanded. One of the major changes is in the expanded statute of limitations (SOL). SOLs will vary based on jurisdiction, and they may differ based on criminal charges or a civil claim. In a civil claim, the plaintiff or the victim of the abuse, can seek reparations in the form of monetary damages even if the criminal SOL has expired.

In some jurisdictions, the laws allow the victims and their families to sue the organization that hid the abuse. Many times, the Catholic church failed to investigate accusations of abuse made against the priest. If they conducted an investigation, the claim was made that there wasn’t enough evidence to support the accusations. Once the SOLs ran out, the victims had no more options for recourse. As more states are expanding the rights of victims of sexual abuse, more lawsuits can and will be filed.

The History of Lawsuits of Clergy Abuse

The Catholic Church has historically hidden any reports of sexual abuse by its priests from the public and its parishioners. One of the earliest cases where a priest was convicted of child sexual abuse was in 1985 in the state of Louisiana. However, abuse by the Catholic clergy has been going on for decades, with some victims coming forward telling of abuse that happened in the 1940s and 1950s.

A Pennsylvania grand jury identified over 300 priests as guilty of clergy abuse against more than 1000 victims. The report came out in 2018. This event was one of the main influences for the thousands of clergy sex abuse lawsuits that would be filed in the following years.

Since then, several states have expanded their SOLs for sexual abuse. Some states have also opened windows for victims whose claim deadlines have expired to revisit their claims.

Clergy abuse isn’t limited to one or two states or areas of the country. It has been prevalent all across the 50 states. Because of these allegations, legislators have enacted new laws to support the victims. To date, the Catholic Church has paid out more than $3 billion in settlements against clergy abuse victims. The amount awarded depends on the type of settlement as well as the details of the abuse. The average settlement amount is around $268,000, but some cases have awarded victims more than $1 million. You can sue the priest and the Diocese as well as the Catholic Church. Who you sue depends on the state and the situation. You can sue the Diocese if they covered up the abuse or failed to investigate claims brought to their attention.

Many of the abuse victims were under the age of 14 at the time. They were often male, though some victims were female. The abuse was often ongoing and happened on regular occasions. Victims of this type of sexual abuse find it hard to trust people in authority and may never tell anyone what happened until much later. They suffer emotional effects from the trauma long into adulthood. They may develop mental health issues and even commit suicide because of the abuse.

While the vast percentage of abuse claims have been made against the Catholic Church, allegations have been made against other religious organizations. Victims of clergy sexual abuse can sue the church as well as the actual abuser. They can ask for monetary damages for any past and future medical expenses, which can include therapy, medications, and counseling. They can also receive damages for pain and suffering and what is known as punitive damages in some states. The lawsuits can sometimes include injunctive relief, which means the church must fulfill certain obligations to ensure sexual abuse doesn’t happen in the future.

Seek Help with Legal Counsel

If you’ve been the victim of clergy sexual abuse, you can file a lawsuit against the clergy and church. Even if it happened many years ago, you may be entitled to monetary damages. Because this is a complex situation and laws vary by state, you need to seek the legal advice of an experienced law firm. Pulaski Kherkher has worked with numerous clergy abuse victims. We’ll discuss your case with you and determine if you’re eligible to file a lawsuit and who it can be filed against. Contact us today for a free consultation and let us help you continue the healing process.