Sexual-abuse survivors planning to file claims in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester’s Chapter 11 must do so by Aug. 13.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Paul Warren set the deadline, which falls on the day the Child Victims Act expires, in a 44-page order filed with the court Feb. 25. The order also lays out a set of special procedures that abuse claimants must follow.
Anticipating a tsunami of abuse claims during the CVA’s one-year extension of a statute of limitations that previously barred many such claims, the Rochester diocese sought Chapter 11 protection from creditors in September. The state’s statute of limitations normally calls for victims of childhood abuse to file claims against their abusers by their 23rd birthday. During its one-year life, the CVA temporarily raises the age limit to 55.
The diocese so far has acknowledged some 200 sexual abuse claims. Church officials have predicted that many more could be filed. In an early Bankruptcy Court filing, the diocese projected making abuse payouts at $100,000 per claimant. What compensation victims of abuse by Rochester diocese functionaries might receive once the bankruptcy case has been resolved is not yet set. It is being worked out between the diocese, the Bankruptcy Court and a dozen insurance companies that are expected to come up with much of the cash to pay victims.
Warren’s order calls for abuse claims to be filed on a special form considered in a separate class from less-fraught claimsand shielded from public access. If abuse claims are submitted on the wrong form, the diocese is supposed to notify claimants and give them time to rectify the error.
Any claimants already named as creditors by the diocese in bankruptcy filings do not have to file new claims. Abuse survivors who have filed state court claims but are not named as creditors must file new claims in the Chapter 11 case.
Abuse claims are to be viewed only by Rochester Bishop Salvatore Matano and such other church officials as may be “necessary to assist (the diocese) in reviewing or analyzing abuse proofs of claim,” the order states. Individuals known to have been accused of abuse are excluded. Authorized personnel also include members of the creditors’ committee, a body made up of abuse claimants, the committee’s lawyers, the diocese’s lawyers, and insurers’ officials and insurers’ attorneys.
All claims in the Chapter 11 case, including abuse and non-abuse claims must be submitted only to a third-party agent, Stretto.
“Proofs of claim may not be filed with the court or the clerk of the court,” Warren’s order states.
Abuse claims can be filed electronically through an email link on Stretto’s website. Claimants can also submit forms through first-class mail, hand delivery or overnight courier to: The Diocese of Rochester, Claims Processing c/o Stretto; 8269 E. 23rd Ave., Suite 275, Denver, CO 80238.
Faxed or photocopied forms will not be accepted, the order states. The order also calls for claims to be written in English and to state dollar amounts in “lawful” U.S. currency.
Stretto also provides links on its website to official case information including hearing dates and court filings.
Warren calls for the diocese to repeatedly place notices advising potential claimants of the claim deadline in Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse daily newspapers, and the national dailies USA Today and the New York Times, on area broadcast outlets and on parish social media accounts.
Will Astor is Rochester Beacon senior writer.