The Catholic Diocese of Rochester in New York has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection due to the numerous lawsuits that were filed after the state’s Child Victims Act (CVA) went into effect in August. The CVA has opened up a one-year “look-back” window for victims who were unable to file civil lawsuits because the statute of limitations had expired.
Before, survivors of child sexual abuse had from one (1) to five (5) years to bring a civil lawsuit against their abuser(s). The one (1) to five (5) year time period started after the victim turned eighteen (18) years old. For a long time, it has been recognized that it is very difficult for survivors of child sexual abuse to come forward or even come to terms with the trauma until many years later. As a result, many survivors could not pursue a claim for damages because the one (1) to five (5) time period expired by the time they were ready – emotionally and otherwise – to bring a claim for money damages.
Now, the CVA helps survivors by extending the statute of limitations for civil claims so that survivors can file a claim until they are 55 years old.
The Democrat & Chronicle reported that since the CVA went into effect on Aug. 14, “more than 580 lawsuits have been filed statewide, with the lion’s share of them accusing Roman Catholic priests, brothers, deacons or nuns of abuse.” As of Wednesday, the report said, the Diocese of Rochester was named as a defendant in 59 cases, but the bankruptcy filing “does not mean the diocese is penniless, and does not mean its churches will close.”
The bankruptcy filing, which you can read below in full, lists the diocese’s estimated number of creditors as 200-999, says its estimated assets are $50-$100 million, and says its estimated liabilities are between $100-$500 million.
The U.S. Courts website helpfully explains what chapter 11 is for:
This chapter of the Bankruptcy Code generally provides for reorganization, usually involving a corporation or partnership. A chapter 11 debtor usually proposes a plan of reorganization to keep its business alive and pay creditors over time. People in business or individuals can also seek relief in chapter 11.
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