Thursday, May 24, 2007


That would seem to me the question implied in this article, linked at Spirit Daily, about lawsuits in Los Angeles:

Citing an alleged misrepresentation by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, a judge ruled Wednesday that four people can seek punitive damages against the Los Angeles Archdiocese for failing to protect them from a priest they accused of sexual abuse.

The ruling, the first of its kind in the Los Angeles clergy sexual abuse scandal, could increase pressure on the archdiocese to reach a settlement with its accusers.

More than 500 people have alleged that they were abused by priests in the archdiocese, and many also have alleged that the church knew about the danger but failed to act.

If all of them are granted permission to seek punitive damages, Mahony could face a potentially enormous payout.

The first of the cases is set to begin trial June 11. The judge also ordered the archdiocese to submit to extensive interrogation and disclosure about its finances. "The risk is that 500 punitive damage awards could bankrupt the church," USC law professor Greg Keating said. "The church has a lot of valuable real estate, but not that much cash. It could force them to liquidate a lot of assets."

Church lawyers did not oppose the accusers' motion for punitive damages. Tod M. Tamberg, a spokesman for the archdiocese, downplayed the ruling's significance.

"The decision today neither decides nor influences the ultimate issue of whether such damages are appropriate in these cases," he said.

Punitive damages are awarded on top of compensatory damages, to punish or make an example of a wrongdoer for actions motivated by fraud or malice.

Read the rest...

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