Judge Approves Proposed Church Settlement Distribution

Settlement Distribution Plan Approved

Wave3.com/October 17, 2003
By Shannon Davidson

Louisville -- A judge Friday approved a plan to divide a $25.7 million settlement among 243 people who sued the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville claiming priests molested them when they were children. Shannon Davidson reports.

More than two dozen victims objected to the three-tier plan, and were hoping the $25.7 million would be divided differently, but Judge James Shake sided with victims who wanted a quick ruling.

"The longer it drags on, the more they are forced to endure memories of the most painful times of their lives," Shake said in his ruling.

Now that Judge Shake has approved the proposed settlement plan, the money will be divided based on the level of abuse and the impact the abuse had on each victim's life, clinically.

Within each category, additional factors such as age at time of abuse, duration of abuse, and type of abuse may be used to slide the victim along the recovery range.

The victims are expected to receive between $15,333 and $175,000 each under the distribution plan proposed by Cincinnati attorney Matthew Garretson, court-appointed commissioner of the settlement fund.

"I've been in turmoil all week, wanting to know, wanting to know, wanting to know -- I'm ecstatic!" That's what Jodi Blair, one of the 243 victims had to say about Judge Shake's ruling. She's ready to put the whole ordeal behind her, and anxious to see if there will be yet another roadblock on the road to healing.

"I hope and pray that no one appeals. I hope they realize it's the best that Mr. Garretson could do with the amount of money he had to offer."

Mike Turner, the first of the 243 to file suit against the Louisville Archdiocese, says he holds no ill will against the victims who objected to the way the settlement money would be distributed. "It's an opinion, and they were abused just like everyone else, and if they didn't feel like they were treated right, they have just as much right as I have to say that I think it's great, let's finish it."

Now that the settlement has been approved, the money will be divided among the victims based on the level of abuse and the impact the abuse had on each victim's life. To determine individual awards, Garretson will divide victims into three classes according to severity of abuse.

The first category includes those victims who were subjected to lewd behavior. The proposed settlement range in that category is from $15,333 to $30,000.

The second category includes victims of some improper touching -- by far the largest category. The monetary range for those victims is approximately $75,000 to $110,000.

The third category includes victims who were subjected to rape, sodomy, or bodily penetration of some type. Their settlement will range from about $150,000 to 175,000.

Other factors include the victim's age when the abuse occurred, how many times molestation occurred and whether the victim was given drugs, alcohol or pornography.

The attorneys representing the victims want to expedite the process, and hope to have checks in their clients' hands as soon as possible -- hopefully, in time for the holidays.

"Everyone would hope to have this completed by the holidays," said Ross Turner, an associate of lead plaintiffs' attorney William McMurry. "That's our unofficial goal, that's what we're shooting for."

There is still a chance one or more victims could appeal Judge Shake's decision, and that would further delay the settlement distribution.

An appeal must be filed within 30 days.

J. Andrew White, who represents nine plaintiffs, said the three-tiered plan would "overcompensate" some types of abuse at "the expense of more serious victims."

But White said he wouldn't appeal.

"We want to see closure," White said. "I think the difference per plaintiff would be under $20,000, and appealing it for that kind of difference in money would not really be merited."

Under Garretson's plan, attorneys' fees would be paid from each plaintiffs' share. Shake has approved a fee rate of 40 percent for most plaintiffs' shares.

McMurry has said Garretson will be paid separate fees for deciding how to divide the settlement and administering the payments. Each plaintiff would pay about $425 for Garretson's service -- a total of more than $103,000.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.