Baltimore Archdiocese sues insurers over abuse claims coverage — By: Catholic News Agency

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, vice-president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, at the USCCB’s fall meeting Nov. 15, 2023. / Credit: Joe Bukuras/CNA

CNA Staff, Apr 4, 2024 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Baltimore is suing numerous insurers over their alleged failure to pay for abuse claims stretching back several decades.

The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in September of last year ahead of a state law that ended the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits for negligence concerning child sexual abuse. The law opened the archdiocese up to abuse allegations stretching back decades.

With the Chapter 11 filing, “the archdiocese will be reorganized, victim-survivors will be equitably compensated, and the Church will continue its mission and ministries,” Archbishop William Lori said at the time.

In a new court filing last week, meanwhile, the archdiocese alleged that nearly two dozen insurers “have failed to acknowledge, or will fail to acknowledge” their obligations to “pay for the defense of the archdiocese” and its parishes.

The insurers have also allegedly failed to acknowledge their obligation to “indemnify the archdiocese and/or parishes, including the funding of any settlements or judgments.”

The 22 named insurers have contracted with the archdiocese at various times since 1956, the filing said. The archdiocese itself “timely paid all premiums” related to the policies.

The alleged refusal of the insurers to pay out the insurance claims “constitutes a breach” of the policy agreements, the archdiocese said. 

The filing asks the court to declare that the insurers are “obligated to pay in full” the “expenditures made by the archdiocese and parishes” pursuant to the claims. 

The archdiocese said it was requesting a trial by jury on the matter if the court deemed it necessary.

Lori said last year that the bankruptcy filing was “the best path forward to compensate equitably all victim-survivors, given the archdiocese’s limited financial resources, which would have otherwise been exhausted on litigation.”

“Staggering legal fees and large settlements or jury awards for a few victim-survivors would have depleted our financial resources,” the prelate said at the time, ”leaving the vast majority of victim-survivors without compensation while ending ministries that families across Maryland rely on for material and spiritual support.”

The archdiocese joined more than two dozen other U.S. dioceses that have filed for bankruptcy in recent years.

Most recently, the Diocese of Sacramento filed for bankruptcy after more than 250 lawsuits alleging abuse by Church officials. 

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