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Dioceses, Victims' Lawyers To Try Mediation

New Law Lifts Statute of Limitations For Clergy Abuse Suits

Jan 1, 2003 | AP Roman Catholic dioceses in Southern California have won a reprieve in more than 100 potential lawsuits by alleged victims of priest sexual abuse, even as a new law took effect Wednesday giving plaintiffs more time to sue the church.

Lawyers for purported victims in Los Angeles and Orange counties agreed Tuesday to try to mediate claims instead of taking them immediately to court, said attorney Katherine Kay Freberg, who represents nearly 80 alleged victims.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Orange will be given about 90 days to reach out-of-court settlements, attorneys said.

"Mediation is always better than conflict," said Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for the Los Angeles archdiocese. "The archdiocese believes that legitimate victims of sexual abuse by clergy deserve consideration of compensation for their suffering."

More than 30 current or former priests in the archdiocese are being investigated over accusations of sexually abusing children.

The law that took effect Wednesday lifts the statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases for one year. It involves suits to be filed against churches or other institutions accused of continuing to employ known molesters who went on to abuse other victims -- regardless of when the abuse took place.

Under previous law, people alleging childhood sexual abuse had either until their 26th birthday or three years after discovering emotional problems linked to childhood molestation, to take legal action. The new law requires that any lawsuits be filed this year.

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