San Diego Roman Catholic diocese facing yet another lawsuit -- now from its own insurance company

Greg Moran, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Religious News

SAN DIEGO — The insurance carrier for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego filed a lawsuit Friday contending that because the diocese violated the terms of its insurance policies, the company should not have to pay out any money to settle claims from hundreds of people alleging they were victims of sexual abuse by clergy over the past several decades.

The lawsuit was filed in San Diego federal court by Catholic Mutual Relief Society of America, the insurance provider for San Diego and other Catholic dioceses. The company wants a judge to order that it has no duty to "defend or indemnify" the diocese or any parish against claims of sexual abuse by clergy from 1958 through 1990.

It is not exactly clear why the lawsuit gives that time frame. The lawyer for Catholic Mutual did not respond to messages seeking comment on Friday.

However, many of the 400 claims that are currently pending in San Diego Superior Court allege clergy abuse in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, said Irwin Zalkin, the lawyer representing more than 100 claimants.

The company is arguing that insurance policies in place years ago effectively capped how much could be paid out. It says the diocese knew during those years that some clergy members "had proclivities toward sexual abuse of children such that coverage is precluded" under the policies that were in effect then.

The suit also says the terms of the insurance policies were violated last month when Cardinal Robert McElroy wrote a letter to parishioners on Feb. 9, announcing that the diocese may have to file for bankruptcy because of the sexual abuse claims. The following day at a news conference, Kevin Eckery, the diocese's director of media and community relations, told reporters that the claims could cost the diocese $550 million.


Those statements were made without consulting with the insurance company, violating the "duty to cooperate" under the policy and "effectively placed an unreasonable baseline on the value on the potential settlement value of these claims," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit filing caught the diocese off guard. Eckery said Friday that it was a surprise and that the diocese was disappointed the insurance company sued.

"We will be opposing this in court," he said.

The suit is the latest legal woe facing the diocese, which has 93 parishes and some 1.6 million congregants in San Diego and Imperial counties.


swipe to next page

©2023 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus