April 23, 2005

Church, insurers dispute molest payouts

San Francisco Chronicle

Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Lawyers suing the Catholic Church in Northern California for molestations by priests over more than three decades say the latest jury verdicts -- nearly $6 million for four people abused by a San Jose clergyman -- should encourage church officials to reach settlements that would avoid the 140 remaining trials.

Both sides have said publicly that they prefer settlements, which would save time, money and the emotional toll exacted by trials. One substantial settlement was announced Friday, $3.315 million to a Placer County woman who sued the Santa Rosa Diocese for six years of sexual abuse by a priest who was later jailed.

But one obstacle to large-scale settlements has emerged: a disagreement between the church and its insurance carriers over the extent of coverage.

The San Francisco Archdiocese, hit with a $5.95 million jury verdict in Superior Court on Wednesday in a suit by four victims of the late Rev. Joseph Pritchard, hinted at the insurance conflict in a statement Thursday.

"The archdiocese wishes to facilitate a fair and just settlement of the cases, and is committed to making significant and appropriate financial and personnel resources available to make that happen,'' the statement said. "The archdiocese and its insurers dispute the extent to which insurance covers these claims.''

Posted by kshaw at April 23, 2005 07:17 AM