When a party – or “debtor” – files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the debtor is protected from being sued for damages in civil court. Simply, once in bankruptcy, the debtor does not have to answer for its actions before a jury. The debtor is “protected” from civil litigation, and its assets are now in the hands of the bankruptcy court.
The bankruptcy court needs to know what the “debts” of the debtor are. In other words, the court needs to learn who the
“creditors” are, and what amounts the creditors are owed. This would include the mundane things such as outstanding bills from vendors, mortgage holders, banks, and the like. And, for our purposes, it also includes the claims of survivors of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy. Survivors are “creditors” in bankruptcy court.
In order to determine what the total amount is owed by the debtor, the court needs an accounting of all the claims against the debtor. To get that information, it needs to set a deadline by which every potential creditor submits a claim form to the court identifying himself/herself as a creditor, and identifying the amount owed.
That Deadline Is Called the Bar Date
The bar date will affect survivors of clergy sexual abuse in Maryland because the Archdiocese of Baltimore filed for bankruptcy in September 2023 (the day before the implementation of the Maryland Child Victims Act).
If you have a sexual abuse case against the Catholic Church, you should promptly consider consulting with a trauma-informed clergy sexual abuse lawyer in Baltimore. The bar date has not yet been determined in the Baltimore case, but it will affect your ability to recover compensation if you miss it.
Understanding Why the Bar Date Matters
When a party files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, it halts any pending lawsuits against them. These cases will not go to a jury trial. Instead, they will go before the bankruptcy court as a part of this process.
There are pros and cons of this for the plaintiffs in these cases, but they must ensure they file before the bar date to recover any compensation. This is because the bankruptcy process will resolve all pending litigation against the organization.
As the bankruptcy proceeds, the bankruptcy court will create a fund for claimants. To recover money from this fund, plaintiffs will need to have strong evidence to show why they deserve maximum compensation from the fund.
When it comes to the Archdiocese of Baltimore, filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy could allow them to settle thousands of survivors’ lawsuits without liquidating the assets the institution holds. You can learn more about what this means when you consult our law firm.
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What Can I Expect If I File a Case Against the Archdiocese of Baltimore?
Bankruptcy courts and civil courts that normally select juries and handle injury cases are very different. They operate in different ways and hear arguments differently. When a bankruptcy court handles pending litigation, such as a clergy sexual abuse case, they do not select a jury, hear evidence, and call witnesses to testify.
Instead, the bankruptcy judge will create a fund from the organization’s assets and require all pending cases to recover money from this fund. The judge will determine how much must go into this fund by considering the revenue, endowment, and market value of the organization in bankruptcy.
Each case will then be considered to determine how much of the fund they might qualify to receive. This allows plaintiffs to receive compensation in their cases, and the organization exits bankruptcy without pending civil litigation. However, this also means there are no additional options for recovering compensation for those hurt by the organization. This is what makes the bar date so important.
What Damages Are Normally Recoverable in a Clergy Sexual Abuse Case?
While the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of the Archdiocese of Baltimore could affect the outcome of your case, you should not let this discourage you from pursuing justice. You must act quickly, though. You only have a limited time. Our attorneys are accepting speaking with affected survivors now.
We know how to build a compelling case and represent your best interests throughout this process. While it is unknown how much we may be able to recover for our clients through the bankruptcy court, some of the recoverable damages available in a clergy abuse case could include:
- Past and present medical bills, including mental health support
- Past and present income losses and diminished earning ability
- Past and present emotional distress
Often, one of the downsides of filing a case against an organization in bankruptcy is that the financial recovery might be lower than what is available through a jury trial. However, the process is often quicker and more anonymous than a civil trial.
You will not need to testify in court or relive many of the painful memories that could come up if you testify to a jury. In addition, fund settlements are much less likely to garner the media attention of a full civil trial.
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What Caused the Archdiocese of Baltimore to Declare Bankruptcy?
This law made it possible for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to hold the Archdiocese legally accountable for the abuse they endured. It also eliminated the statute of limitations on these cases and allowed this to apply retroactively. This means all survivors dating back decades could file suit against the Archdiocese beginning on October 1, 2023.
The Child Victims Act of 2023 was passed, in part, because of the high rate of Baltimore clergy abuse within the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Lawmakers read a report released by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office that identified 156 credibly accused clergy members within the Archdiocese.
This report was based on a four-year investigation that included interviews with more than 300 survivors. It determined there were at least 600 child survivors of clergy sexual abuse by those who worked within the Archdiocese of Baltimore and possibly many more.
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Connect With Our Clergy Abuse Attorneys for a Free Consultation Today
At Jenner Law, we are representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse in all our service areas, including Baltimore and the Washington suburbs. We provide free, confidential consultations for those who endured abuse by a teacher, clergy member, nun, or another party affiliated with the Catholic Church.
We understand how difficult it can be to discuss the abuse and the effects that it has had on your life. Our compassionate, trauma-informed team members are here to offer support and legal guidance throughout the process. We do not want you to lose the opportunity to get justice. Act quickly before the bar date arrives. Let’s discuss your legal options today.
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