Diocese of Buffalo Bankruptcy
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The Diocese of Buffalo Filed for Bankruptcy
On February 28, 2020, the Diocese of Buffalo filed for bankruptcy. You can read the bankruptcy petition by read the Diocese’s formal bankruptcy petition by clicking here.
We represent dozens of people who were sexually abused by priests or others associated with the Diocese of Buffalo, and we filed some of the first lawsuits against the Diocese under the Child Victims Act. That means our clients are some of the first “creditors” in the Diocese’s bankruptcy. We have also represented hundreds of abuse survivors in many of the past Catholic bankruptcies, including the current bankruptcy of the Diocese of Rochester.
What Does a Bankruptcy Mean for Abuse Survivors?
This page is intended to provide abuse survivors with answers to commonly asked questions. Some of our lawyers also have significant experience representing abuse survivors in other Catholic bankruptcies across the country, including the bankruptcies of the Christian Brothers, the Jesuits in the Northwest, the Diocese of Spokane, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and others. The information on this page is based on our experience in those past bankruptcies, so is no guarantee of what will happen in the Diocese of Buffalo’s bankruptcy.
Most importantly, a bankruptcy does not mean the Diocese has no assets or that abuse survivors will get nothing. To the contrary, the goal of a bankruptcy is to allow a bankruptcy judge to identify the Diocese’s cash, other assets, and insurance, and then ensure that abuse survivors are compensated in a way that is fair to everyone.
However, in order to be compensated, abuse survivors must file a claim with the bankruptcy court by a “bar date” deadline. This deadline is called a “bar date” because anyone who fails to file a claim by the deadline will forever forfeit their right to pursue a claim or compensation from the Diocese. This deadline could be as short as a few months from now, and could be shorter than the one-year “window” provided by the Child Victims Act. For those reasons it is critically important that abuse survivors act now and contact a lawyer to learn their options and timely file a claim by the deadline. The deadline usually applies to everyone, including people who later claim they were not aware of the deadline. The time to act is now.
Why Did the Diocese Declare Bankruptcy?
The Diocese of Buffalo filed for bankruptcy in order to seek relief from the dozens of child sexual abuse lawsuits filed against it after the Child Victims Act took effect on August 14, 2019. We filed one of the first such lawsuits and you can read more about our clients’ lawsuit, as well as interviews with some of our attorneys and our clients who wanted to be interviewed, by clicking here.
By filing for bankruptcy, all lawsuits against the Diocese are “stayed” (put on pause) and a bankruptcy judge is assigned to oversee all of the claims against the Diocese. Generally speaking, the bankruptcy judge is responsible for determining the Diocese’s assets that are available to compensate abuse survivors, including cash, property, and insurance, and then deciding a fair way to use those assets to compensate abuse survivors.
Frequently Asked Questions
Doesn’t the Bankruptcy Mean the Diocese Has No Assets?
The bankruptcy absolutely does not mean that it has no assets or that abuse survivors will receive no compensation. Instead, the purpose of a bankruptcy is to ensure that the Diocese’s assets are fairly divided among its creditors, including survivors of sexual abuse. The first step in the bankruptcy is to determine what assets the Diocese has to compensate abuse survivors, including cash, property, and insurance proceeds.
Why Should I File a Claim?
People with any type of claim against the Diocese need to know about the “bar date” deadline that requires all people with claims against the Diocese, including sexual abuse survivors, to file a claim with the bankruptcy court. This deadline is called a “bar date” because people who come forward later are usually “barred” from ever filing a claim against the entities that declared bankruptcy. The deadline for the Diocese of Buffalo bankruptcy could be just a few months, and may be shorter than the one-year “window” provided by the Child Victims Act that closes on August 14, 2020.
Do not wait until the last minute to file a claim or to seek legal advice regarding filing a claim. Generally speaking, the deadline applies to anyone who may have a claim, even if they later claim they were not aware of the deadline.
If you have a claim against the Diocese, or anyone associated with the Diocese, the time to act is now. Please contact us to learn how to protect your rights.
Does This Mean the Diocese Will Likely Shut Down?
No. There have been more than 20 Catholic bankruptcies across the United States, and one of the lead Catholic attorneys is now on record as admitting that the Catholic church has not had to shut down parishes or schools, or reduce their services, as a result of these bankruptcies. For example, most Dioceses own a significant amount of property, and rather than sell their property, they may take out a loan against their property to help compensate abuse survivors. Moreover, insurance companies have contributed a significant amount toward the prior bankruptcies, such as an insurance company that paid more than $100 million toward the bankruptcy of the Jesuits.
Are Other Entities Involved, Like the Parishes?
If you have a claim against the Diocese, you may also have a claim against other entities, such as a religious order or the parish or school where the abuse occurred. This is another reason why it is important that abuse survivors act now and take steps to learn their options. While filing a claim with the bankruptcy court will protect your rights as to the Diocese of Buffalo, it does not protect your rights for any claim you may have against other entities.
What Do I Need to Do to File a Claim in the Bankruptcy?
Please contact us and we can explain the process for filing a claim in the bankruptcy. In every bankruptcy you begin the process by filing a short “claim form” that advises the bankruptcy court of your claim. To date, the bankruptcy court in every Catholic bankruptcy has protected the identity of abuse survivors from being publicly known. The bankruptcy court will decide how abuse survivors should be compensated, but most Catholic bankruptcies have involved each abuse survivor submitting a 4-5 page statement, with a neutral third party then reviewing the statement of each person to decide how much they should receive out of the available assets.
You must file a claim in the bankruptcy court by the “bar date” deadline, or you will likely forever lose your right to file a claim against the Diocese of Buffalo. This deadline usually applies to everyone, including people who come forward later and claim they did not receive notice of the deadline. Do not delay in filing a claim or contacting us or another law firm to ensure your rights are protected.