Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Settlements & Payouts (2024)

Editorial Team


Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.


Read in 5 mins

The monetary compensation awarded in clergy sexual abuse lawsuits is intended to help victims recover some of the extensive damages they've incurred. It's essential to understand that no amount of money can truly compensate for the emotional, psychological, and physical trauma victims have endured. However, these settlements can provide much-needed financial support for therapy, medical care, lost earnings, and other related expenses, as well as recognize the profound harm caused by the abuse.

The settlement amounts in clergy sexual abuse lawsuits can vary widely, influenced by a range of factors:

Severity and Duration of the Abuse

Generally, cases involving more severe abuse or abuse that occurred over a long period tend to result in higher settlement amounts. This is because the severity and duration of abuse are directly related to the level of trauma and subsequent damages a victim may experience.

Impact on the Victim

The degree to which the abuse has affected the victim's life—physically, psychologically, emotionally, and professionally—is taken into account. For instance, if a victim had to undergo extensive therapy or if their ability to work has been significantly impacted, these factors could contribute to a higher settlement.

Actions of the Church or Religious Institution

If it can be demonstrated that the church or religious institution knew about the abuse and failed to take appropriate action, or worse, covered it up, this could significantly increase the settlement amount. These actions—or lack thereof—by the institution represent a gross negligence of duty and exacerbation of harm, which courts often penalize heavily.


Different states have different laws related to damages that can be awarded in civil lawsuits. Some states may cap the amount of damages that can be awarded, while others do not. The jurisdiction in which the case is filed can, therefore, impact the settlement amount.

The Catholic Church in the U.S. has paid out more than $3 billion in settlements to victims of clergy sexual abuse to date. Individual dioceses have paid settlements ranging from tens of thousands to several million dollars. For example, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles paid a total of $660 million to 508 victims in 2007, which averages out to approximately $1.3 million per victim.

However, it's important to remember that while these figures may seem large, they reflect a small portion of the actual damages victims endure. The trauma of clergy sexual abuse can impact nearly every aspect of a victim's life, leading to significant costs—both tangible and intangible—over their lifetime. Pursuing a clergy sexual abuse lawsuit can be a crucial step towards securing the financial resources necessary for recovery and holding the responsible parties accountable.

What is the statute of limitations for clergy abuse?

The civil statute of limitations for sexual abuse within a church setting can vary significantly depending on the jurisdiction. Different states and countries have their own laws and time limits for filing such claims. Some jurisdictions have made efforts to extend or suspend the statute of limitations for cases involving sexual abuse, particularly when minors are involved, recognizing the unique challenges survivors face in coming forward.

In many places, there have been temporary "look-back windows" enacted, allowing survivors to file claims that were previously barred due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. Additionally, some jurisdictions apply the "discovery rule," which allows the statute of limitations to start when the survivor discovers the abuse or its harmful effects, rather than when the abuse occurred.

For instance, in the United States, states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Maryland have specific statutes of limitations for sexual abuse cases:

  • Pennsylvania: Survivors in Pennsylvania have until the age of 55 to file civil lawsuits, and the state has opened a temporary "look-back window" for previously time-barred cases.
  • Florida: Florida has eliminated the civil statute of limitations for sexual battery of a minor, allowing survivors to file at any time.
  • Maryland: Maryland permits lawsuits until the age of 38, with provisions for extension under certain circumstances, such as the discovery rule.

Given the variations in law and the possibility of legislative changes, it is crucial for survivors or their representatives to consult with a legal professional or check the most current state statutes to get the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding the civil statute of limitations in these or any other states. This consultation is essential for understanding the time limits and any available legal remedies in the applicable jurisdiction.

Do I Qualify for

Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Compensation?
Free Case Review

Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Updates

Examining case studies of clergy sexual abuse lawsuits provides a profound understanding of the gravity and complexity of these cases. These lawsuits illustrate the heinous acts committed by individuals in positions of trust and the lengths to which institutions have gone to protect their reputations over the well-being of victims. Here are several notable examples:

The Diocese of Pittsburgh, 2021

The Feinberg Group reported that it received 369 claims against the Catholic Diocese in Pittsburgh. Of the 297 claims deemed eligible, 224 claimants agreed to settlements, with claims averaging about $86,000 per victim. This case highlighted the widespread nature of the abuse and the collective action that victims took to seek justice.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses, Montana, 2018

Two women who were abused as children over a 13-year period by a congregation member brought a lawsuit against the organization. They argued that the congregation's decision to handle the matter internally, rather than contact authorities, allowed the abuse to continue. The jury awarded the victims a collective $34,960,000, underlining the severe consequences of institutions choosing to shield abusers rather than protect victims.

Catholic Priest Abuse, Washington, 2016

Eight women alleged that a former Catholic priest sexually abused them over forty years ago when they were children. They claimed that the then-Archbishop of Seattle transferred him to unsuspecting parishes despite possessing documented accounts of his abuse. The average individual settlement amount over $1 million was a testament to the compounded harm caused by the systemic cover-up of abuse.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, 2007

This case represents one of the largest settlements in church sex abuse cases. The Archdiocese agreed to a $660 million settlement for 508 victims, translating to an average of $1.3 million per victim. This settlement followed five years of negotiations and marked a significant victory for victims of clergy sexual abuse.

These cases are not only testaments to the courage of the victims who sought justice but also stark reminders of the pervasive issue of clergy sexual abuse. Each successful lawsuit serves as a beacon of hope for other victims, demonstrating that legal recourse is possible, and justice can be served.

More About Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

Stay up to date

Get updates on all of our legal news on lawsuits, research and legal updates.