Lawyers for hundreds of alleged victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests estimate that their clients' claims could cost the Archdiocese of Los Angeles more than $1.5 billion, the largest amount ever paid out by a diocese, according to court documents.
Attorney Raymond P. Boucher said the amount is based on verdicts and settlements in clergy abuse cases nationwide and is consistent with secret estimates of local claims done by a Los Angeles judge earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.
Boucher, the lead attorney for plaintiffs in Southern California, asked insurers to put aside at least $3.1 million for each of more than 500 claims against the Los Angeles archdiocese, according to the Times. Another 60 claims are against the Diocese of Orange, which covers Orange County.
If the claims are successful, damages would be covered by insurance, as well as other church assets, because insurance companies would not cover punitive damages.
Donald F. Woods Jr., an archdiocese attorney, said the $1.5 billion figure "seems way too high."
"As far as we know, there is not any diocese anywhere in America that comes anywhere near reaching that amount," he told the Times.
Boucher has estimated the Los Angeles archdiocese could have as much as $10 billion in potential insurance coverage and has asked insurance companies to review their financial reserves to make sure they have enough to cover the pending cases.
Boucher has called the insurance companies' reserves "woefully inadequate" to cover all the pending claims, as required by state law. He has asked California's insurance commissioner to look into the issue.