Diocese of Harrisburg Files for Bankruptcy Protection

| Feb 20, 2020 | Catholic Church

Childhood Sexual Abuse claims will likely be considered and settled as part of the bankruptcy proceedings.

On Wednesday, the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg in Pennsylvania became the latest Catholic entity to seek federal bankruptcy protection due, in large part, to the potential cost of sexual abuse claims against it.  Since 2004, more than 20 Catholic dioceses and religious orders have sought bankruptcy protection for the same reason.

As part of the bankruptcy proceedings, generally all unsettled claims of sexual abuse are considered by the Court and, usually, settled with monetary payments to the survivors.  For example, the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings in Montana agreed to settle 86 claims of sexual abuse for $20 million as part of its bankruptcy re-organization.  We expect that the Diocese of Harrisburg bankruptcy proceedings will include a similar process for reviewing claims of sexual abuse.

Catholic dioceses like the Diocese of Harrisburg often seek bankruptcy protection as a way of controlling the costs of sexual abuse litigation.  As part of the proceedings, the bankruptcy court will set a strict filing date by which all claims of child sexual abuse must be filed.  If a survivor of abuse fails to file a claim by that date, they may never be able to file a lawsuit or claim against the Diocese in the future.

Pennsylvania legislators have been considering changing the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse in order to allow the hundreds sexually abused by Pennsylvania’s priests to file lawsuits even if the statute of limitations has already expired on their case.  If that law becomes a reality, survivors of abuse in Harrisburg will probably not be able to file such lawsuits due to the recent bankruptcy filing, so it is critically important that you contact us today to discuss your options.  Once the bankruptcy claims filing date passes, that could serve to lock out survivors of abuse in the Diocese of Harrisburg forever.

Horowitz Law’s managing partner, Adam Horowitz, was recently asked about the Diocese of Harrisburg’s bankruptcy by the New York Times:  “Adam D. Horowitz, a Florida lawyer who represents eight sexual abuse survivors who plan to bring claims against the Harrisburg Diocese in bankruptcy court, said his clients were concerned. ‘It is my clients’ hope that the Diocese of Harrisburg is not playing a shell game with their assets,’ he said. ‘Hiding assets revictimizes sexual abuse victims seeking civil justice.’”

The lawyers at Horowitz Law are experienced at helping survivors of sexual abuse navigate the bankruptcy process nationwide.  Contact us to discuss your options today.

For more information on the Diocese of Harrisburg, including a list of 55 priests accused of sexual abuse that we have identified, click here.