California Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
California has made great efforts over the last 16 years to improve the state’s statute of limitation laws whereby extending the time allowed for victims to receive civil compensation. These laws enable lawyers handling sexual abuse claims in California to file cases against sexual predators, including clergy members, and the Catholic church.
Below you will find California Lawsuits News & Updates, as well as additional information on California’s statute of limitations laws. These laws are important because they dictate how long a lawyer handling a California sexual assault cases has to file a claim on behalf of a survivor. In addition, we’ve compiled a list of California’s settlements and jury awards received by sexual abuse and assault survivors and a list of California’s ‘credibly’ accused priests released by the dioceses.
California Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse & Assault
Since 2002, California has been a leader in statute of limitation (SOL) law reform aimed at helping survivors of sexual abuse and assault. California is one of 28 states to introduce SOL reform legislation in 2020. If passed into law, this legislation would extend the criminal SOL for misdemeanor distribution of private sexual imagery from 1 year, to 1 year from discovery of that image was distributed for offenses against minors and adults.
Criminal Statute of Limitation Laws for California
Beginning in 2002, California law makers began passing laws extending the SOL for sex offenses and allowing for prosecution in sex crimes where DNA identification is later discovered. In 2014, California extended the criminal SOL to age 40, from 28. Then in 2017, California removed any SOL restrictions for a number of felony sex crimes, including rape, molestation, and sexual abuse. Child USA, who has evaluated every state based on their criminal statute of limitation laws, gave California a Criminal SOL score of 3, on a 1-5 scale, where 5 is the highest. A score of 3 is defined as a criminal SOL eliminated for felonies only.
Civil Statute of Limitation Laws for California
In a direct response to the news regarding the sexual abuse against children by priests in the Boston Archdiocese, California passed a law allowing a 1-year window, which renewed all sexual abuse claims in the 2003 calendar year. In 2018, California almost passed another law which would have opened another window for survivors to pursue civil cases against their abusers, but the bill was vetoed by the Governor at the time, Jerry Brown. However, in 2019 a new SOL amendment was passed which accomplished the following:
- Lengthened the civil SOL age to 40; meaning a victim of childhood sexual abuse has until age 40 to bring a civil claim in California; and
- Extends the discovery rule to 5 years. Doing so allows those survivors, who may have suppressed the memories of their childhood sexual abuse, a 5-year window to file a claim after those memories are recalled.
- Opens another 3-year window, allowing previously expired claims to be brought against perpetrators and the institutions who may have covered up the sexual abuse.
Child USA, who has also evaluated every state based on their civil statute of limitation laws, gave California a Civil SOL Age Cap score of 3, on a 1-5 scale, where 5 is the highest. A score of 3 is defined as a civil SOL age cap between 35 and 49 years old for survivors. Additionally, Child USA gave California a related SOL Revival Law score of 4 on the same 1-5 scale. A score of 4 is defined as a revival window for 2 or more years or revival up to age 55, for claims against perpetrators, individuals, private organizations, and government.
If you or someone you love was sexually abused or assaulted in California, contact us now. Due to California’s new 3-year revival window, those sexually abused as a minor likely still have a claim against their abuser, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred. Even if the abuser is deceased, you may still have a claim against the organization responsible. Don’t wait to file your claim. California’s current revival window is set to close on December 31, 2022
Go to our main sexual abuse page to learn more about the process of filing a sexual abuse claim.
California Sexual Abuse Settlements & Jury Awards
California Dioceses have paid over $1.5 billion in settlements to thousands of sexual abuse victims over the last 20 years. In addition, in 2019 the Dioceses of Fresno, Orange, Sacramento, San Bernardino and San Diego all came together to create a compensation fund for victims of priest molestation. They stated their goal was to make it easier for victims to come forward without the fear of potentially having to go to court. That said, there are victims who caution others about trying to get compensation without representation. To read more click here. Lawyers with experience handling sexual abuse lawsuits against the Catholic church can help victims navigate the legal process as well as the application for these compensation funds.
February 1991 – The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange agreed to pay an undisclosed amount of money to Mary Staggs, who’s claims indicated she was molested numerous times from age 13 to age 17, by Rev. John Lenihan during the time she was a member of his church youth group at St. Norbert Catholic Church in Orange.
March 1996 – The Archdiocese of San Francisco and Santa Rosa collectively agreed to pay ~$2.5 million to 15 male survivors of sexual abuse against 3 priests; Rev. Austin Peter Keegan, Monsignor Patrick O’Shea, the Rev. Gary Timmons.
July 1998 – A jury awarded two brothers $30 million in damages, making it the largest jury verdict for sexual molestation claims in California at the time. The award consisted of $6 million in compensatory damages and $24 million in punitive damages. The brothers’ claims were not only against the abuser, Rev. Oliver O’Grady, but the three bishops who covered up the abuse and did nothing to prevent further incidents. O’Grady was later sentenced to 14 years in jail.
March 2000 – The Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa paid $1.6 million to settle claims brought by four victims of sexual abuse against former priest Don Kimball. Of the $1.6 million settlement, $500,000 would go to set up programs to assist victims of sexual abuse while the remaining would be split among the victims.
August 2001– The Los Angeles and Orange Dioceses publicly announced an agreement to pay $5.2 million to settle the sexual abuse claims against Msgr. Michael A. Harris, nicknamed “Father Hollywood”. Harris was the principal of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana and later the head of Santa Margarita High School. The settlement also brought mandatory changes to church procedures including monitoring of schools and parishes, prohibiting priests to be alone with minors, and establishing toll free numbers and websites which would allow anonymous claims of abuse to be reported.
April 2002 – The Los Angeles and Orange Dioceses settled a claim against Rev. John Lenihan for sexual molesting, impregnating a teenage girl, and later paying for her abortion. The Orange Diocese was responsible for $960,000 while the Los Angeles Diocese paid $240,000 of the $1.2 million settlement.
October 2003 – After accused priest, Rev. Edward L. Ball, failed to appear for the start of his trial, Judge Bob Krug moved forward with a one-day hearing in which he heard testimony from the two brothers alleging the sexual abuse. He later awarded them $26 million but it’s unclear if they ever received any of the money. The two were previously paid $4.2 million by the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino and the missionary group which ordained Ball. Ball had previously pled ‘no contest’ to molesting the brothers in 1999 and was sentenced to 3 years in prison for 31 counts of child molestation related to the brothers abuse which occurred from 1979 to 1986. He was later released after the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the law which allowed criminal prosecution for decades-old sexual abuse offenses.
November 2003 – A settlement was reached between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland and a man who said he was molested by Rev. Robert Freitas in 1979 while he was serving at Santa Paula Catholic Church in Fremont. Freitas pled guilt to one count of child molestation and was sentenced to 6 months in prison. He also agreed to pay $16 million to his victim as well, although it’s unclear as to whether he had that amount of money to pay. The same U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the sentence of Edward L. Ball (above) also threw out Freitas’ conviction.
January 2005 – Tod Brown, the Bishop of the Diocese of Orange announced that after two years of mediation, the church would settle a sexual abuse suit for $100 million brought by 87 victims. The claims were against 30 priests, 2 nuns, 1 regional brother and 10 lay personnel. Of the 30 priests, 11 claims were against Eleuterio Ramos and 9 against Siegfried Widera, who had previously committed suicide in 2003. Also named was Andrew Christian Andersen who later was ordered to serve 6 years in prison in Albuquerque for sexual abuse of a minor.
March 2005 – A San Francisco jury awarded $437,000 to man who was repeatedly sexually abused by Rev. Joseph Pritchard during the 1970s while he was an altar boy at St. Martin of Tours. The jury found that the Archdiocese of San Francisco should have known that Pritchard was molesting young boys.
April 2005 – A second jury ordered the Archdiocese of San Francisco to pay nearly $6 million to 4 additional victims of sexual abuse suffered at the hands of Rev. Joseph Pritchard while he was a priest in San Jose in the 1970s.
April 2005 – An Alameda County jury awarded $1.93 million to two brothers molested by Rev. Robert Ponciroli of St. Ignatius Church in Antioch, CA in 1980.
June 2005 – The Archdiocese of San Francisco agreed to pay 15 victims of priest molestation $21.2 million. The priests responsible include Rev. Joseph Pritchard who served at St. Martin of Tours Church in San Jose, Rev. Leonel Noia, who served 16 years as the pastor of Five Wounds Portuguese Nation Church in San Jose before he was removed from the church in 2002, Rev. Arthur Harrison who served in San Jose, and retired in 1990 after leaving to church to marry, and Rev. Gregory Ingels of San Mateo who ironically was chosen by the Canon Law Society of America to be one of the four experts responsible of advising U.S. Bishops on clergy sexual abuse. He was also removed from the ministry in 2002.
June 2005 – The Diocese of Sacramento agreed to pay $35 million to 33 victims of priest molestation. The agreement includes names the following priests: Michael Lynch, Edward Boyle, Jorge Moreno, Javier Garcia, Jose Urbina, Vincent Brady, Jerome Henson, James Mennis, and Mario Blanco. The abuse occurred throughout California while the above named priests were part of the following parishes: St. Mary Parish in Vacaville; St. Joseph, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Rose, Holy Spirit, Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Fatima, all in Sacramento; Our Lady of Lourdes in Colusa; Holy Rosary in Woodland; Holy Cross in Arbuckle; St. Joe in Marysville; and St. Isidore in Yuba City.
July 2005 – The Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa agreed to pay $7.3 million to eight victims of priest molestation. The priests named in the settlement included Rev. Patrick Gleeson, Don Kimball and Gary Timmons.
July 2005 – 12 people molested by Rev. Joseph Pritchard while he was a priest in San Jose were awarded $16 million by the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
August 2005 – The Diocese of Oakland settles it’s remaining lawsuits, agreeing to pay $56 million to settle claims brought by 56 victims. While the full list of priests included in the settlement was not made public, it was reported that there were 2 claims against Robert F. Ponciroli and 4 claims of abuse by Stephen M. Kiesle.
October 2005 – Two brothers were paid $2.6 million to settle their claims against the Archdiocese of San Francisco relating to their claims of sexual abuse by Monsignor Patrick O’Shea in 1972.
March 2006 – An agreement was reached between 25 sexual abuse victims in California and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Franciscan Friars of California for $28 million. 22 of the 25 victims received $1.275 million each, while the remaining 3 received about $100,000 each. The majority of the abuse occurred at St. Anthony’s Seminary in Santa Barbara and nearly half of the claims involved Mario Cimmarrusti who was the prefect of discipline there. Other claims involved Robert Van Handel, who earlier was sentenced to 8 years in prison for child molestation charges and Gus Krumm who was removed from the church in 2002 after admitting to the abuse.
October 2006 – The Los Angeles Archdiocese and the Carmelite Roman Catholic religious order agreed to pay $10 million to 7 people sexually abuse by clergy members at Crespi Carmelite High School by priest Dominic Savino, former Principal John Knoernschild and two others not associated with the school.
December 2006 – A judge ordered a mistrial of a case brought against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno and Father Eric Swearingen after the jury was unable to come to a consensus. Swearingen was accused of molesting a boy at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Bakersfield and then at St. Alphonsus parish in southwest Fresno. Rather than retrying the case, the parties reached an agreement; the details of which were not made public.
December 2006 – The Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to pay $60 million to settle cases brought by 45 victims of priest molestation. The priests responsible include Michael Baker, Richard Allen Henry, Carlos Rene Rodriguez, Michael Edwin Wempe, and Edward Dober.
July 2007 – Claims against 221 priests, brothers, teachers and church employees was settled by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, paying 508 survivors $660 million.
September 2007 – A judge awards $198.1 million to 144 sexual abuse victims to end a bankruptcy case filed by the San Diego Diocese. According to judge Louise DeCarl Adler, “Chapter 11 is not supposed to be a vehicle, a method, to hammer down the claims of those abused.”
September 2007 – The San Bernardino Diocese agreed to pay $15.1 million to 11 victims sexually abused by priests, including Monsignor Patrick O’Keefe of Highland Church.
September 2007 – The Santa Rosa Roman Catholic Diocese agreed to pay over $5 million to 10 victims who were abused by Rev. Francisco Ochoa-Perez, also known as Francisco Xavier Ochoa who fled to Mexico in 2006 to avoid prosecution on 10 felonies.
October 2007 – $6.7 million settlement was reached between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange and a woman who was abused by her former basketball coach Jeff Andrade while attending school at Mater Dei High School.
May 2008 – The Salesian Society of Catholic priests agreed to settle a case brought by 17 survivors of sexual abuse just prior to the start of trial for $19.5 million. They were the only religious order that chose not join the $660 million settlement reached by the Los Angeles Archdiocese in 2007 (above). The claims centered around sexual molestation and abuse by Father Titian Miani. Victims further claimed that the Salesians knew of the abuse allegations against Father Miani prior to assigning him to St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower in the 1960s where the victims were abused.
April 2009 – The Fresno Diocese was found not liable by a jury, believing that the diocese had no knowledge of the abuse. Jurors however all agreed that Monsignor Anthony Herdegen was guilty of molesting the two brothers while he was a priest at St. John’s Catholic Church in Wasco from 1959 to 1972.
January 2020 – The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, CA agreed to a $1.9 million settlement with a man who was repeatedly sexually abused by Father Lawrence (LJ) Lovell during the early 1980s while he was an altar boy at Gabriel Mission Church in San Gabriel. This was the first Catholic Church sexual abuse case settled in California since they opened a new 3-year revival window on January 1, 2020.
*The settlements listed above are offered for educational purposes only and do not guarantee any future outcome or settlement. Each legal situation is different, and past performance does not guarantee future results. We do not maintain that is a full list of all settlements in the state of California but merely a grouping of those we choose to share on our website. Please contact us if you would like additional settlements included or if you notice any inaccuracies on our site. We strive to provide our viewers the most up to date and accurate information as possible.
California Catholic Dioceses Release Names of Clergy Credibly Accused of Sexual Abuse of Children
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles released an updated list of clergy who have been accused of molesting children. The full list of those included in the ‘2018 Update to the Report to the People of God’ provided by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. According to the document, ‘the following list includes the name of a priest if the allegation could be investigated and was found to be credible after an investigation and review by the independent Clergy Misconduct Oversight Board.’
Archdiocese of Los Angeles Credibly Accused Priest List
|wdt_ID||Last Name||First Name||Clergy Status||Year(s) of Alleged Incident(s)||Abuse First Reported|
Click to view our larger database of priests accused of sexual abuse. Here you can search by accused clergy first and last name, Parish/Diocese, city and state, and even by the years of their assignments.
California Sexual Abuse Lawsuits: News & Updates
It can take years or even decades for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to come forward. Click the headline to learn more about how long a survivor of clergy sex abuse has to pursue a claim in California. Click the headline to read more…
A California clergy sexual abuse case regarding priest Carlos Rene Rodriquez, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and the Diocese of San Bernardino has been pushed to March 2021 due to Coronavirus. Click the headline to read more…
The Diocese of Oakland, St. John’s Catholic Church in San Lorenzo, and Corpus Christi Church in Fremont (CA), are accused of negligence in protecting children from predator priests. Click the headline to read more…
The alleged sexual abuse of an altar boy at San Gabriel Mission Church in California from 1982-1984 by ‘Father Larry’, resulted in a $1.9 million settlement paid by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Claretian Missionaries to the victim. Click the headline to read more…
A sexual abuse lawsuit was filed by a former Brentwood California police officer accusing her superior officer of rape. Click the headline to read more…
The California Catholic Church Settlement funds allows victims of childhood priest molestation to file a claim for compensation without having to go to court. The fund was created by six dioceses including the Diocese of Fresno, Diocese of Orange, Diocese of Sacramento, Diocese of San Bernardino, Diocese of San Diego, and Los Angeles. Click the headline to read more…
A man who was sexually abused by Father Michael Baker as a child, filed a suit alleging that his abuse could have been prevented if those supervising Father Baker, including Cardinal Roger Mahoney, had removed the priest rather than trying to cover it up. Click the headline to read more…