Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyers in California
Fighting for Adult & Child Survivors of Sexual Abuse in California Catholic Churches
If you were sexually abused by a Catholic priest or other member of the Catholic Church in California, you may have grounds to pursue legal action and financial compensation.
In recent years, various investigations, legal filings, and high-profile payouts have revealed alarming evidence of rampant sexual abuse within California Catholic Churches. In addition to numerous accused priests and thousands of abused survivors, the evidence has also shown that all 12 of California’s Roman Catholic Dioceses woefully failed to protect victims by shielding priests from consequences.
Now, survivors are stepping forward in increasing numbers to hold the Church accountable.
Levy Konigsberg is an award-winning trial practice known nationally for litigating sexual abuse lawsuits against powerful institutions and religious organizations. If you have questions about a potential case, we want to help. Our firm represents survivors across California and offers free and confidential consultations.
- Do I have grounds for a clergy abuse lawsuit?
- What types of damages can I recover?
- Extended filing deadlines for sex abuse survivors
- Do I still have time to file a lawsuit?
- California AG investigation is still ongoing
- Scope of abuse within California Catholic churches
- How Levy Konigsberg can help you
Do I Have Grounds for a Clergy Abuse Lawsuit?
Our clergy sex abuse attorneys in California have extensive experience litigating sexual abuse lawsuits and are available to help evaluate your eligibility to pursue a civil lawsuit against a California Catholic Diocese.
While every case is different, you may have a potential claim if you were sexually abused as a child or an adult by a priest, Church volunteer, or other member of any of California’s 12 Roman Catholic Dioceses, including:
- Diocese of Sacramento
- Diocese of Santa Rosa
- Diocese of Stockton
- Diocese of Oakland
- Diocese of San Jose
- Diocese of Monterey
- Diocese of Fresno
- Diocese of San Bernardino
- Diocese of Orange
- Diocese of San Diego
- Archdiocese of San Francisco
- Archdiocese of Los Angeles
At Levy Konigsberg, we support survivors in civil actions that aim to hold dioceses accountable for their failures to stop abusive Catholic priests and protect victims. These civil claims are separate from any criminal proceedings and focus on holding the church liable for damages.
This means that you may still have a claim even if:
- Your abuser is no longer alive.
- Your abuser was never charged or convicted of a crime.
Recoverable Damages in Church Sexual Abuse Claims
In addition to accountability and providing the sense of justice survivors deserve, civil sex abuse lawsuits allow survivors to recover financial compensation for their damages, which may include:
- Past medical and mental health expenses
- Future mental health expenses, including therapy, medications, etc.
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional anguish and psychological harm
- Lost income
- Other economic and non-economic damages
Extended Filing Deadlines for Sex Abuse Survivors in CA
In 2019 and 2022, California lawmakers passed two groundbreaking laws to provide victims of sexual abuse with more time to file civil lawsuits. These laws, which focus on sexual abuse claims filed in civil court, were intended to account for the fact that survivors, especially those abused as minors, take years or decades to process their abuse.
Child Victims Act
Passed in 2019, the California Child Victims Act (AB 218), created unprecedented legal pathways for survivors of sexual abuse with a two-pronged approach. For one, the Act extended the statute of limitations for civil child sexual abuse lawsuits, giving survivors until the age of 40 to file lawsuits.
It also created a temporary lookback window (which was open from 2020 through 2022) for survivors to file suits barred by the previous statute of limitations. The CVA was a critical factor in the flood of lawsuits filed against California Catholic Dioceses, as well as other institutions that failed to protect children from abuse.
Sexual Abuse and Cover Up Accountability Act
Passed in 2022, the California Sexual Abuse and Cover Up Accountability Act (AB 2777) was passed for the benefit of adult sexual abuse survivors.
Under the Act, survivors sexually abused as adults at any time in the past can file claims during a temporary one-year lookback window (which is open from January 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023), provided that they can prove that an associated party (such as an institution for whom the abuser worked) tried to cover up the abuse.
The Act also created a four-year lookback window for survivors to file claims over abuse that occurred in 2009 or later. That four-year window, which is open until December 31, 2026, does not have a cover-up requirement, making the statute of limitations for adult sexual abuse claims over abuse occurring in 2009 or later effectively up to 17 years.
Do I Still Have Time to File a Lawsuit?
For survivors who were sexually abused in California Catholic Churches, new state laws have provided important opportunities to hold Dioceses accountable – even when abuse occurred years or decades ago.
And while some components of these laws have since expired – for example, the CVA’s temporary lookback window, which was open between 2020 and 2022 – hundreds of survivors of child and adult sexual abuse still have the right to file claims.
- The Child Victims Act extended the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse lawsuits, allowing survivors abused as minors to file claims until age 40 or within 5 years of discovering that their injuries were caused by sexual abuse or assault.
- The Sexual Abuse and Cover Up Accountability Act’s temporary one-year window remains open until December 31, 2023, giving survivors abused as adults an opportunity to file claims over abuse that occurred at any time in the past if an institution attempted to cover up the abuse.
- The Sexual Abuse and Cover Up Accountability Act’s temporary four-year window remains open until December 31, 2026, giving survivors of adult sexual abuse an opportunity to file claims over abuse that occurred in 2009 or later.
Our California clergy sex abuse lawyers at Levy Konigsberg have helped numerous survivors file claims under the California Child Victims Act, the Sexual Abuse and Cover Up Accountability Act, and the current statute of limitations. We are also closely tracking pending legislation that would eliminate the civil statute of limitations in all child sexual abuse cases.
If you have questions about the statute of limitations for civil sexual abuse lawsuits in California or would like to discuss whether you have grounds to file legal action against a Catholic Diocese under California’s current law, open filing windows, or future legislation, we can help.
California AG Investigation Is Still Ongoing
In May 2019, former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that his office had launched a sweeping investigation into sexual abuse within California Catholic Churches.
According to Becerra, the investigation would review how the state’s 12 Roman Catholic Dioceses handled allegations of child sexual abuse, including whether church leaders adequately reported sexual misconduct allegations against priests and other church members as required by state law.
Becerra also announced that his office had sent requests to each diocese to preserve all records related to child sex abuse, including any records in “secret archives.”
But as AGs in other states, such as Illinois and Michigan, have released reports revealing a devastating legacy of abuse within their churches, the California AG’s investigation has yet to provide any meaningful update on its findings. The silence has prompted many survivors and advocates to pressure California’s new AG, Rob Bonta, to provide an update.
In May 2023, for example, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) issued a letter urging Bonta to release a report about its findings.
Scope of Child Sex Abuse within CA Catholic Churches
Despite the lack of any formal update from the California AG’s investigation into Catholic Church sexual abuse, progress is still being made – especially in terms of the growing number of legal filings from survivors, high-profile payouts from the Church, and various bankruptcy filings that have occurred in recent years.
- In January 2024, the Diocese of Orange and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles settled a clergy child sex abuse case for a record-breaking $10 million, marking the largest individual settlement against a religious organization in California. The settlement, which forestalled a trial involving numerous lawsuits against Roman Catholic dioceses statewide, comprises $9.5 million from the Diocese of Orange and $500,000 from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The case centered on notorious predators Father Eleuterio Ramos and Father Siegfried Widera, with the settlement seen as an acknowledgment of the church's failures and a step towards resolving decades-old abuse claims by now-adult survivors.
- In December 2023, the Diocese of Sacramento, led by Bishop Jaime Soto, has announced plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection by March 2024 due to over 250 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by clergy and staff. Soto stated that the bankruptcy process would enable fair compensation for victim-survivors. Critics like the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) argued against the move, suggesting that settlements are typically reduced in bankruptcy. The diocese highlighted the necessity of a fund to ensure compensation for all victims, given the potential depletion of diocesan funds in trial cases. The surge in lawsuits across California, including Sacramento, followed a change in state laws allowing suits irrespective of the statute of limitations, with a majority of claims dating back to 1980 or earlier.
- In August 2023, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, aiming to resolve approximately 500 lawsuits alleging childhood sexual abuse by priests. The majority of the alleged abuse dates back to the 1960s and 1970s involving deceased or former priests. The Archdiocese, serving 442,000 Catholics, faces $100-500 million in assets and liabilities. This bankruptcy follows similar actions by the dioceses of Oakland and Santa Barbara. Previous Catholic bankruptcies resulted in significant settlements, yet many dioceses remain in bankruptcy without finalizing agreements due to changes in state laws allowing new abuse claims.
- In May 2023, the Diocese of Oakland announced that it had filed for bankruptcy after it was hit with over 330 claims brought by survivors who say they were sexually abused by priests and other clergy members with the Diocese’s churches. According to the Diocese, most of the claims involve sex crimes that occurred in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s committed by priests who are deceased or no longer active. The filing was criticized by advocates who say it is nothing more than a legal tactic to deny justice and transparency to survivors.
- In June 2020, the Los Angeles Archdiocese agreed to pay $1.9 million to settle a lawsuit brought by a victim who was repeatedly sexually abused by Father Lawrence Lovell while he was an altar boy at San Gabriel Mission Church between 1982 and 1984. According to court records, the abuse occurred until Lovell, who had been accused of abusing other boys at San Gabriel, was transferred to the Diocese of Phoenix in 1984. This was the first settlement awarded under the California Child Victims Act.
- In 2019, California lawmakers passed AB 218, a law that extended the statute of child sex abuse lawsuits and created a three-year lookback window for older victims of childhood sexual abuse to file claims. Thanks to AB 218, numerous survivors with claims over decades-old abuse have stepped forward to file civil lawsuits against the Church. These filings have provided greater insight about the scope of sexual abuse within California Catholic Churches, and prompted several California Dioceses facing a flood of lawsuits to file for bankruptcy.
- In 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles reached a $660 million settlement with survivors of clergy sexual abuse. The settlement, the largest reached by the Catholic Church at the time, came after the Archdiocese paid millions to settle other claims, including a $60 million settlement reached in December 2006 with 45 survivors whose claims dated from before the mid-1950s and after 1987, periods when the church had little or no sexual abuse insurance.
- In 2005, the Diocese of Orange agreed to pay $100 million to settle sexual abuse lawsuits brought by 90 survivors who were abused in the county’s parishes. At the time, the settlement was the largest paid by a U.S. diocese to settle sexual abuse claims.
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Levy Konigsberg has recovered more than $3 billion in compensation for clients, including millions in compensation for survivors of sexual abuse. We’re passionate about helping survivors seek justice and provide the firepower they need to fight back against powerful institutions like the Catholic Church.
If you have questions about pursuing a sexual abuse lawsuit against a California Catholic Diocese over abuse that occurred when you were a minor or an adult, we’re available to help. Call (800) 315-3806 or contact us online for a FREE consultation.
Find out whether you have a case by speaking to one of our experienced lawyers via our 24/7 toll-free hotline or by submitting an email inquiry. Our attorneys will be quick to respond to you and happy to answer all of your questions.
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