With the passing of the Child Victim’s Act in 2019, New York victims of clergy sexual abuse are now allowed to file sexual abuse claims outside of the standard five-year statute of limitations. This led to the filing of many clergy sexual abuse lawsuits in New York, with around 140 victims of sexual abuse accusing 49 members of the Archdiocese of New York.
The Albany diocese has been subject to several lawsuits regarding the sexual abuse of children committed by priests. They are the fifth of eight New York dioceses to file for bankruptcy to delay compensating clergy sexual abuse victims.
The Albany Roman Catholic Diocese Declared Bankruptcy Possibly to Delay Child Abuse Litigation
Clergy sexual abuse lawsuits in New York have been filed to hold priests accountable for committing sexual abuse against church-going children. The Albany Roman Catholic Diocese is one of the state’s many dioceses that has been subject to clergy sexual abuse lawsuits, with hundreds of victims filing lawsuits after the passing of the Child Victims Act.
On March 15th, 2023, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger announced that the diocese would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This decision was made partly because of concern that the diocese could not meet the financial demands of the hundreds of clergy sexual abuse lawsuits.
The bankruptcy filing comes after months of the diocese’s attorneys threatening it could happen if the victims do not accept a global settlement. They offered a $20 million global settlement to be split between plaintiffs, but it was denied.
What is the Child Victims Act?
For years, New York victims of clergy sexual abuse could not file lawsuits to pursue compensation for damages. Sexual abuse laws in the state only allowed victims to report their sexual abuse until they were 23, which does not account for how long it can take for a sexual abuse victim to be prepared to make such a step.
On February 14th, 2019, the New York Child Victims Act was signed into law, allowing childhood sexual abuse victims to file a civil claim until they are 55. It also allowed victims to file negligence claims against institutions such as the Albany diocese that enabled this abuse.
The Rochester Roman Catholic Disocese’s Bankruptcy and Ongoing Clergy Abuse Lawsuits
The Albany diocese is the fifth of eight New York dioceses to file bankruptcy after receiving lawsuits regarding clergy sexual abuse. The Diocese of Rochester filed for bankruptcy shortly after the passing of the Child Victims Act led to over one hundred lawsuits with allegations against 35 priests.
Since filing for bankruptcy, the Rochester diocese has been involved in three years of litigation and two years of mediation. Continental National Insurance, one of the diocese’s insurance providers, refused to pay for any clergy sexual abuse claims. While the diocese filed a lawsuit with their insurer, the clergy sexual abuse victims continued to file lawsuits with individual parishes not covered by the diocese’s insurance.
This led to the Rochester diocese negotiating a $55 million partial settlement paid into a trust. The clergy sexual abuse victims were still allowed to file lawsuits with the diocese’s insurance companies to pursue compensation for other damages.
Past Discovery Revelations Could Make Albany’s Bankruptcy Move Faster
Attorney Jeffrey R. Anderson is one of the lawyers representing clergy sexual abuse victims in the Albany and Rochester dioceses. He believes the key difference in these cases is that the Albany diocese filed for bankruptcy after the plaintiffs were able to go through discovery.
One of the revelations in discovery was from Bishop Emeritus Howard J. Hubbard, who revealed that the Albany diocese concealed incidents of sexual abuse. This and other information from diocesan records could help move the bankruptcy proceedings along more quickly. The Rochester diocese bankruptcy proceedings have lasted so long because they filed for bankruptcy quickly after the passing of the Child Victims Act, preventing plaintiffs from beginning the discovery process.
The Albany Roman Catholic Diocese Has Already Settled With Victims
Many victims have already received settlements from the Diocese of Albany for clergy sexual abuse. One such party is a family with children sexually abused by former Schenectady priest Francis P. Melfe, who secretly groomed and abused children in the early 1960s.
The Diocese of Albany also paid a $750,000 settlement to Stephen Mittler for sexual abuse damages caused by former priest Mark Haight. The settlement was reached just weeks before his case was set for trial. Mittler alleges the diocese threatened him with the information that they would have to declare bankruptcy unless he settled.
What’s Next for Albany Catholic Child Sexual Abuse Victims?
According to bankruptcy court documents, the Albany diocese suggests they have $10 to $50 million in assets, $100 million in liabilities, and more than 200 creditors. The attorneys representing Albany clergy sexual abuse victims suggest the diocese’s asset evaluation is closer to $600 million. They also have suggested they could file lawsuits with individual parishes to pursue compensation for sexual abuse damages.
Future clergy sexual abuse litigation involving the Albany diocese will likely target the diocese’s insurance companies, real estate, and investment funds. The court will hold a hearing about the diocese’s assets to determine if they hid any money or assets to prevent them from being a part of any settlement. Plaintiffs will seek non-monetary conditions in any settlement, including disclosure of files associated with abusers and child-protection protocols.
How Can a Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyer Help Victims Pursue Compensation for Damages?
A sexual abuse lawyer can help you as you attempt to pursue compensation for damages. You can suffer economic and non-economic damages that affect your health, self-esteem, and quality of life, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and mental anguish.
Returning to trauma from the past can be difficult to handle alone, especially as you attempt to recover compensation for your suffering. Having an experienced clergy sexual abuse lawyer in your corner can help, as they will have the knowledge and experience necessary to navigate the legal intricacies involved in filing your lawsuit.
Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Albany Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawsuit
Dolman Law Group is a personal injury law firm that can help victims of clergy sexual abuse recover compensation for damages. We understand how sexual abuse can affect a person from childhood to adulthood, and we wish to offer our support in handling your clergy abuse sexual assault claim. Our clergy abuse sexual abuse lawyers have decades of experience and can assist you by calculating your damages, gathering evidence to prove the at-fault party’s liability, and negotiating a fair settlement. Contact us today for a free case evaluation to learn about your options for pursuing compensation for damages.