Los Angeles Roman Catholics Pay $660M To Settle 508 Abuse Cases

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A California judge approved the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles's agreement to pay $660 million to people who claim they were abused by priests, in the biggest clergy-abuse settlement ever, a plaintiffs' lawyer said.

The accord is intended to resolve 508 claims, some decades old, and avoid a trial that was scheduled to begin today, said Raymond Boucher, a Beverly Hills lawyer who represents 245 plaintiffs.

The archdiocese will pay $250 million in cash and insurance companies including Allianz SE and Chubb Corp. will pay $220 million by Dec. 1, the lawyer said. Mark Greenberg, a spokesman for Warren, New Jersey-based Chubb Corp., declined to comment, and Petra Kruell, a spokeswoman for Munich-based Allianz, declined to immediately comment.

``Although financial compensation in itself is inadequate to make up for the harm done to the victims and their families, still this compensation does provide a meaningful outreach to assist the victims to rebuild their lives and to move forward,'' Cardinal Roger Mahony, who oversees the archdiocese, said in a statement on the archdiocese's Web site.

Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for the archdiocese, didn't respond to voice-mail and e-mail messages seeking comment.

Personnel Records

The Los Angeles settlement calls for the archdiocese to release personnel records on abusive priests, with the approval of a judge, Boucher said. Had the trial proceeded, Mahony would have been called to testify, the lawyer said.

The money will be distributed to claimants under a plan agreed upon by the plaintiffs, Boucher said. The cost of the settlement will be shared between the archdiocese, insurers and several religious orders and other parties, according to Mahony's statement.

Chubb shares fell 66 cents to $53.15 at 4:01 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

The archdiocese serves 4.3 million Catholics and covers 288 parishes in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, according to its Web site.

Abuse claims have threatened the finances of dioceses throughout the U.S. since victims filed hundreds of suits against Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law beginning in 2002.

Law stepped down and was reassigned to a position at the Vatican after it was disclosed that officials of the archdiocese shifted abusive priests from parish to parish.

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