A federal bankruptcy judge on Tuesday agreed to shield the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s parishes and schools from lawsuits, at least for now, in order to protect insurance policies that are likely some of the archdiocese’s most important assets.
The decision means that childhood sexual abuse survivors will not be able to file lawsuits against an individual parish or school if the institution was covered by the same insurance policy as the archdiocese.
The judge’s order shielding those institutions is preliminary. A legal fight over the church’s assets is almost certain to come later as plaintiff’s lawyers seek compensation and other benefits for sexual abuse victims in the bankruptcy.
The archdiocese’s lawyers on Tuesday presented the move as an effort to shield assets that will later be distributed among victims with claims against abusive members of the clergy and church officials that protected them.
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If survivors file lawsuits against individual parishes that are covered by the same insurance policies as the archdiocese, their potential winnings in court would diminish the total amount available for distribution from the policies later, they said.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michelle M. Harner