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Spotlight Report

Archdiocese coverage for abuse claims found lacking

Plaintiffs' lawyer says church may spend millions

By Stephen Kurkjian, Globe Staff, 11/26/2002

The Archdiocese of Boston does not have insurance coverage to pay for more than a third of the claims of clergy sexual abuse it faces and would have to fund millions of dollars on its own to reach a settlement with victims, according to a Boston lawyer who has researched the church's insurance records.

Jeffrey A. Newman of Greenberg Traurig said yesterday that he has found that the abuse involving 172 of the more than 400 complaints took place in years in which the archdiocese has already exhausted its insurance coverage.

''Unless some other way is found of getting the insurance companies to accept liability for these claims, the archdiocese is going to have to pay for these itself,'' Newman said. ''We're talking millions of dollars.''

The archdiocese has been battling with its insurance companies, Kemper and Travelers, over how much money the insurers will provide to settle the cases, and may have to take the companies to court to resolve the dispute.

Newman made his comments after a meeting in which a mediator shuttled back and forth between two rooms at the Millennium Bostonian Hotel, one where lawyers for the archdiocese and the insurers met and a second room where more than 40 lawyers who represent alleged victims were gathered. The mediator is trying to determine if a settlement of the claims can be reached without going to trial.

Paul R. Sugarman, the Boston attorney who is the mediator, said ''some progress'' had been made during four hours of discussions. Several lawyers for victims said much remained to be done.

''We're at the very preliminary stages,'' said Robert A. Sherman, a partner of Newman's whose law firm represents more than 200 victims.

Sherman and others said neither side had proposed any amount they thought would be sufficient to settle the cases. Over the next month, the lawyers said they would make a financial evaluation on their individual cases and present the costs to Sugarman.

Mitchell Garabedian, who negotiated a $10 million settlement with the archdiocese on behalf of 86 individuals in September, said the church was ''feeling a lot of pressure'' to resolve the cases but has a ''major problem'' on its hands to come up with the money for a global settlement.

Stephen Kurkjian's email address is kurkjian@globe.com.

This story ran on page A14 of the Boston Globe on 11/26/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.


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