BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Diocese of Buffalo has now paid $17,540,000 to 106 victims of sex abuse through the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, which was established to settle claims by people who were sexually abused as a minor by clergy.
In total, the IRCP has issued 127 compensation awards, ranging from $2,000 to $650,000. The average accepted settlement is $164,486. One settlement of $60,000 remains unpaid. Twenty other compensation awards have yet to be accepted by the victim.
The amount of each settlement was determined by program administrators and not the diocese. The diocese was unable to appeal any settlement.
Administrators determined 135 of the 262 claims or request for permission to file claims failed to meet the IRCP eligibility requirements. Claims of abuse had to be reported to the diocese before March 1, 2018.
"The Diocese received an unexpectedly large number of claims of which it was previously unaware," the IRCP report states. "In reviewing the new claims, the Diocese found it noreworthy that the vast majority involved abuse alleged to have occurred decades ago."
In agreeing to accept a compensation award, the victims must agree not to take legal action against the diocese.
According to lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, who had ten clients accept compensation, $17 million is a small price compared to what could be on the horizon.
"That's very low," Garabedian said, "Hundreds of lawsuits are going to be filed within the Diocese of Buffalo."
Victims who choose not to accept a settlement offer from the diocese, or whose claims were rejected by the IRCP, will be able to take legal action against the diocese due to the recent passage of the Child Victims Act in New York state. The CVA lifts the statute of limitations for civil cases on claims of sex abuse for a one-year window period that begins on August 14. Legal experts believe up to 500 filings could take place on that date in the 8th Judicial Circuit, in which Buffalo is located,
An investigation by 7 Eyewitness News I-Team Chief Investigator Charlie Specht, citing internal church documents, found the diocese was aware of claims of clergy child sex abuse dating back decades but repeatedly took steps to cover up the claims.