On Thursday, July 15, 2021, the Diocese of Norwich filed for Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy protection, becoming the latest in a slew of Catholic dioceses to do so. Citing the number of lawsuits that have been filed against it in recent years, along with ongoing discussion about another change in the statute of limitations that would allow more sex abuse survivors to file suit, Bishop Michael Cote says he was left with no other choice.
There are more than 60 lawsuits now pending against the Diocese, according to media reports. The majority of the ongoing sexual abuse allegations were filed by people who say they were sexually abused at Academy Mount St. John by Brother Paul McGlade and music teacher Brother Pascal Alford. Two other staff members are named in at least one other suit. The suits claim individuals were between 10-15 years old when victimized between 1986 and 2000 while they attended the academy, which then served as a residential boarding school.
It is a common misconception that a Chapter 11 filing means an entity, like the Diocese of Norwich, has run out of money, leaving sexual abuse claimants without any recourse. But that is not true. The claim is simply decided in an alternative process run by the federal bankruptcy court, rather than by a jury trial in a state court, and the insurance carriers who typically pay sexual abuse claims on behalf the diocese will be much more involved. The amounts paid to survivors in a bankruptcy filing are often much less than in a traditional court case, however.
The Norwich Diocese bankruptcy filing, which comes more than two years after the first Academy Mount St. John lawsuit was filed, is not without its critics, and rightfully so. Horowitz Law represents survivors of sexual abuse by clergy of the Diocese of Norwich. Attorney Adam Horowitz said, “Bankruptcy is the latest ploy by the Catholic Church to reduce its legal exposure for covering up clergy sexual abuse nationwide. They evade responsibility and the bankruptcy lawyers get money the survivors of sexual abuse should be getting. They were the ones who were hurt. Plus, in a bankruptcy proceeding, the Church can also conceal evidence of its neglect in the handling of sexually abusive priests because the turnover of the diocese’s internal personnel files is not as important as it is in a regular lawsuit.”
Another advantage to the Diocese is the right to be free of additional sexual abuse litigation indefinitely once the case closes. Once a claims filing deadline has been set by the court, that will be the very last chance most survivors of clergy sexual abuse and exploitation will ever have to get some measure of accountability for what happened to them. After that date passes, the Diocese will not be subject to liability for any additional claims that arose before the bankruptcy filing, even if other laws would otherwise a lawsuit to be filed, like a change in the statute of limitations. So it is critically important that you not delay in contacting us today.
Horowitz Law has filed numerous sexual misconduct claims on behalf of children who were sexually abused by clergy of all religious denominations, including Chapter 11 bankruptcy claims. If you or someone you know was sexually abused by a clergy member or employee of the Diocese of Norwich, please contact our law firm at 888-283-9922 or send an e-mail to sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at [email protected] for a free consultation.