Antigonish Diocese Priest Sexual Abuse Class Action Settlement
Antigonish Diocese Priest Sexual AbuseClass Action Settlement
In 2004 Ronald Martin and other survivors filed lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish, and Bishop Raymond Lahey, seeking compensation for sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of Hugh Vincent MacDonald, a former priest of the Antigonish Diocese.
Class Action Lawsuit Filed
In January 2009 Ronald Martin filed a class action against the Diocese of Antigonish, and Bishop Raymond Lahey, on behalf of all persons who were sexually abused by priests from the Antigonish Diocese between 1950 and 2009. The claim included survivors who were sexually abused by Father Hugh Vincent MacDonald, Father Clair Richard, Father Claude Richard, Father James Mombourquette, Father Frank MacNeil and Father Michael MacNeil as well as any other priest employed by the Diocese of Antigonish.
Class Action Settled
After 8 months of difficult negotiations the class action has been settled. The Diocese of Antigonish has agreed to create a private compensation process to evaluate the claims of sexual abuse survivors. The Diocese has agreed to pay for a compensation fund of more than 13 million dollars to pay compensation to persons who suffered sexual abuse by any priest who was employed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish between 1950 and 2009.
Settlement Subject to Court Approval
The class action settlement is still subject to approval by the court. On September 10 and 11, 2009, Justice MacAdam of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court will hear a motion to certify the class action and to review the settlement agreement to determine whether it is fair and reasonable and in the best interest of class members.
Private Compensation Process
The settlement agreement creates a private, out of court resolution process to evaluate and settle claims by anyone who suffered sexual abuse by a priest employed by the Diocese of Antigonish.
Fair and Impartial Process
The settlement process was negotiated by Ron Martin and the Antigonish Diocese in order to provide a fair, impartial and respectful process to evaluate the claims of sexual abuse survivors that avoids the necessity of having to file public lawsuits or testify in court.
Who Is Covered?
Any person who was sexually abused between 1950 and 2009 by a priest employed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish.
Currently, we have been retained by survivors who allege abuse by several priests from the Antigonish Diocese including:
- Father Hugh Vincent MacDonald;
- Father Claire Richard;
- Father Claude Richard;
- Father James Mombourquette;
- Father Frank McNeil; and
- Father Michael McNeil.
However, the class action settlement is not limited to abuse by these priests. It covers sexual abuse by any priest employed by the Antigonish Diocese between 1950 and 2009.
“Where Can I Get More Information?”
You can get more information about the class action by contacting class counsel, John McKiggan, toll free (in Atlantic Canada) at (902) 423-2050 or at (902) 423-2050. You can also look at the class action website which can be found at www.dioceseclassaction.com. All inquires are confidential.
“Who is John McKiggan?”
John McKiggan is one of the founding partners of McKiggan Hebert Lawyers, Trial Lawyers. John’s practice is dedicated to representing persons who have suffered serious personal injuries as a result of medical malpractice, accidents and institutional negligence. He has a special interest in representing victims in civil claims for childhood sexual abuse.
John represented Nora Bernard and filed the first class action against Canada on behalf of Indian Residential School survivors. He represented over 500 former residents of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School in a claim for compensation for childhood physical, sexual and racial abuse and loss of cultural identity.
John was part of the steering committee of the national class action, Baxter vs. Canada – a claim brought on behalf of 70,000 aboriginal children across Canada. The National Indian Residential Schools class action settlement was the largest class action settlement in Canadian history and the largest historical redress settlement in the world.
“Do I Have to Go to Court?”
No. The class action creates a private, confidential, and respectful compensation process that will allow legitimate sexual abuse survivors to receive compensation without having to file a lawsuit or testify in court.
“Do I Have to Talk to the Police?”
No. It is not necessary for the sexual abuse to have been reported to the police in order to qualify under the compensation process. It is not necessary for the priest to have been criminally charged or convicted in order to qualify under the settlement process. It does not matter if the priest is currently alive or dead.
“Why Should I Join the Class Action?”
Typically, sexual abuse survivors who sue for compensation must do so by filing a lawsuit, which is a public document. The survivor may have to testify publicly in court about what happened to them. The class action settlement creates a private process where a survivor’s claim is evaluated and compensation paid, without having to testify in court about the abuse that you suffered.
“How Do I Apply for Compensation?”
You can receive claim forms by contacting class counsel, John McKiggan or by calling toll free at (902) 423-2050, or locally at (902) 423-2050 or by downloading a claim form from this website.
“Do I Need a Lawyer?”
The compensation process created under the settlement agreement is less complicated, less expensive, less time consuming and less adversarial than traditional litigation. However, the compensation process still requires the survivor to provide a great deal of detailed information. The claim process will deal with complicated legal issues of liability, credibility, and issues pertaining to calculation of non pecuniary damages and economic damages.
If you are awarded compensation, the Diocese will contribute certain amounts to help pay your legal fees and expenses. The judge will review the retainer agreement between you and your lawyer to ensure that it is fair and reasonable.
This type of compensation process can be overwhelming for survivors and we would encourage anyone who is considering submitting a claim under the compensation process to retain legal counsel.
We have been representing sexual abuse survivors in civil claims for compensation for more than 15 years. We have been representing Ron Martin and the other survivors of the Antigonish Diocese for more than 5 years. If you have any questions about the class action settlement we would be happy to assist you.
“How Does the Compensation Process Work?”
There are a number of steps in the compensation process:
Submit a Claim Form:
The class member or their lawyer completes a claim form and sends it to the lawyers for the Diocese of Antigonish. Claim forms are available on this website. The claim form is complicated and requires a great deal of detailed information. If the claim form is not properly filled out it will have a negative effect on your claim. We encourage everyone who is considering submitting a claim for compensation to retain legal counsel. While you are not required to do so we believe it is in your best interest to have proper legal advice when you submit your compensation claim. We have already been retained by more than 30 former survivors. If you would like to retain our services to assist you with your class action compensation claim please contact our office toll free in Atlantic Canada at (902) 423-2050 or locally at (902) 423-2050.
Investigation and Research:
Lawyers for the Diocese will investigate your claim. Class members may have to collect and submit certain documents to support their claim. These documents could include records of medical or psychological treatment or counseling, workers compensation records, income tax information, employment records and education records. The information will be used to evaluate and document your compensation claim.
Possible Psychological Evaluation:
The class member may be asked to undergo an evaluation by a psychologist to evaluate the effects that the sexual abuse had on their life. The parties to the agreement have agreed to retain a number of nationally recognized experts in the effects of childhood sexual abuse to conduct the evaluations.
Economic Expert Report:
If you claim that the sexual abuse had an effect on your ability to earn income of hold a job, your lawyer or the Diocese’s lawyers may retain an economic expert to calculate the economic effects of your sexual abuse. The report will be used to prove whether or not you suffered any economic or income loss as a result of the sexual abuse and to calculate the amount of your income loss claim.
Negotiation and Settlement:
Lawyers for the Diocese may agree to negotiate a settlement with the class member without a hearing. In such cases the class member can choose to accept the negotiated settlement or have a hearing. If the parties are not able to agree to a negotiated settlement then there will be a hearing to determine the value of the class member’s claim.
A hearing will be held before a retired judge of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. The hearing is private and confidential and not open to the public. During the hearing the class member will have the opportunity to tell their story and describe what happened to them and how it affected their life. Witnesses, and experts may also give information to the judge and answer questions. Class members will not have to come face to face with the person who abused them!
The judge then makes a decision on the amount of compensation that the class member is entitled to receive.
Q: What is the class action settlement process?
A: The class action settlement process is a private out of court process to resolve claims of sexual abuse by priests who were members of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish. Anyone who was sexually abused by a priest who was a member of the Diocese of Antigonish may be eligible for compensation through the class action settlement process.
Q: How long do I have to file a claim?
A: Applications for compensation will be accepted during the claim period which is 180 days from the date that the class action settlement is approved by the court. The class action settlement is the only way that a sexual abuse survivor can pursue a claim for compensation for sexual abuse unless he/she has opted out of the class action settlement agreement. Compensation under the class action settlement will be paid by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish following evaluation and validation of the claim by a neutral and independent retired judge of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.
Q: Who is eligible for compensation?
A: The class action settlement was created to compensate any person who was sexually abused by a priest that was a member of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish between 1950 and 2009.
Q: How does the class action settlement process work?
A: The class action settlement process is a private, non-adversarial process to evaluate and resolve individual sexual abuse claims. The class member completes a detailed claim form. The claim form is submitted to lawyers for the Diocese. The claimant will also submit certain documents in support of the claim. The Diocese will then research the claim. Alleged perpetrators may be contacted about the abuse allegations. They have the right to provide a statement if they wish. The claim can be resolved through negotiation without the need of a hearing. If the class member and the lawyers for the Diocese cannot agree to a settlement the class member attends a private hearing and answers questions for a neutral adjudicator who is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. In some cases, the class member may be asked to take part in a medical or psychological assessment.
Q: Do I have to hire a lawyer?
A: You do not have to hire a lawyer to submit a claim. However, it is strongly recommended that class members hire a lawyer to help them through the compensation claim process. Although the claims process is less complicated than court, the process is still complex and involves legal concepts and processes that may not be familiar to most class members.
If you hire a lawyer and are awarded compensation, the Diocese will contribute certain amounts to help pay your legal fees. The Diocese will also contribute a fixed amount of $500.00 to help pay some of your out of pocket expenses for submitting a claim. After the compensation hearing the judge will also review your retainer agreement with your lawyer to ensure that the fees charged to you by your lawyer are fair and reasonable.
Q: What is the role of the judge in the claims process?
A: Under the class action settlement process if the parties cannot agree to a negotiated settlement the claim is evaluated by an adjudicator who is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. The judge was selected by agreement of both Ron Martin, on behalf of class members, and counsel for the Diocese of Antigonish.
The judge’s job is to establish a comfortable, non-threatening environment in which abuse survivors, and other witnesses, can safely tell their story. During the hearing process the judge will work to ensure that there is a relationship of trust that is created to make it possible to discuss what may be emotionally challenging and painful memories.
The judge has the responsibility to review compensation claims and preside over hearings. The job of the judge is to assess, in an objective and impartial way, the allegation that are set out in the survivor’s claim and to determine at the end of the hearing whether the claim is compensable and, if so, how much compensation the survivor should receive.
Q: How will the judge determine if my claim is valid?
A: There are certain documents that are required to be submitted for each claim. Medical and financial records are usually supplied. This information provides important background to assist the claimant in telling their story. They also provide information for the judge to test the reliability of the survivor’s testimony. The survivor’s own evidence usually forms the main basis for the claim. Witnesses can be called by other parties to support or refute the survivor’s compensation claim.
Q: How will financial compensation be decided?
A: Financial compensation is decided by the judge based on existing case law. In other words, the judge will look to the compensation paid to other sexual abuse survivors who suffered similar abuse in similar cases.
The judge may also consider expert evidence regarding whether the survivor suffered an income loss as a result of the abuse. The judge can determine the amount of the economic or income loss. The compensation process places a cap of $300,000.00 on the maximum amount of compensation that a survivor can receive for income loss.
Q: How do I make a claim in the class action settlement process?
A: You or your lawyer must fill out and submit a claim form. You can receive a copy of the claim form by contacting class counsel, John McKiggan, by downloading one from this website, or by calling our office toll free in Atlantic Canada at 1 (902) 423-2050 or locally (902) 423-2050.