updated 12/16/2006 12:13:07 AM ET 2006-12-16T05:13:07

Attorneys representing 45 people who sued the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese, accusing clergy members of sex abuse, signed off Friday on a $60 million settlement, according to the lead plaintiffs' lawyer.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles said this month that it would pay $60 million to settle 45 cases that dated from prior to the mid-1950s and after 1987 — periods when the archdiocese had little or no sexual abuse insurance.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said the archdiocese had gone public with the agreement before all the accusers and their attorneys had reviewed and signed the documents. That process was finished Friday, Ray Boucher, the lead plaintiffs' attorney, said in a statement.

Tod Tamberg, an archdiocese spokesman, welcomed the news. "We had an agreement two weeks ago," he said. "The archdiocese is glad to hear that the ink is dry."

Cardinal Roger Mahony said this month that $40 million of the payment would come from the archdiocese, while $20 million would be from religious orders, plus a small amount of independent insurance coverage.

Negotiations had been in progress for at least a year but were held up because attorneys for the plaintiffs wanted the church to release the accused priests' private personnel files.

Mahony said the agreement calls for an independent judge to review those files and decide which documents can be released to the accusers. That process is expected to take several months.

Boucher said several priests had not yet signed the settlement to authorize the release of their personnel files. He said, however, that if some priests don't sign it will give them the right to appeal only the release of those files _ and not the monetary agreement.

Boucher said more than 700 sexual abuse cases are still pending against the archdiocese and other Southern California dioceses. He blamed the insurance companies for holding up negotiations. The first of the cases is expected to go to court as early as March.

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