Legally Reviewed by:

Jonathan Rosenfeld

February 15, 2024

Over $400 Million worth of case results

Awarded The Best Lawyer in 2024 by U.S. News

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The ongoing revelations concerning clergy child sex abuse within Michigan’s religious institutions have shed light on a deeply troubling issue, presenting disturbing statistics that stir both outrage and immense sadness.

With an investigation uncovering 454 accused priests and identifying 811 victims thus far, alongside charges brought against numerous clergymen, the scope of betrayal and misconduct is overwhelming. [1]

At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, we understand the enormous challenges encountered when deciding to come forward with an accusation against clergy members. It’s not just a legal battle; it’s a profoundly personal journey toward healing and justice.

Our dedicated team is ready to provide compassionate advocacy during the legal process, working tirelessly towards securing justice and closure.

Is There a Time Limit to File a Clergy Sexual Abuse Claim in Michigan?

In Michigan, the time limit to file a clergy abuse claim has undergone significant changes.

Prior to June 2018, the statute of limitations allowed survivors who were adults at the time of their abuse three years to pursue legal action. Minors had additional allowances extending past their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit.

With Public Acts 180 and 181 enacted in June 2018, Michigan provided extended opportunities for survivors of clergy sexual abuse seeking compensation and justice.

Minors now have until their 28th birthday or three years from when they first become aware of the abuse, whichever comes later, to file a clergy sexual assault claim.

Those who were adults at the time they were sexually abused by a clergy member can now file within 10 years following the assault.

Irrespective of whether one was an adult or minor during the incident, claims may be filed within three years from discovery of the assault to file a claim.

No Statute of Limitations for First-Degree Criminal Sexual Abuse

It is important to clarify that for victims of first-degree criminal sexual abuse in Michigan, the law provides a crucial exception and there is no statute of limitations. This means survivors have an unlimited timeframe in which they can seek compensation through a civil claim.

Under Michigan law, first-degree criminal sexual conduct includes any non-consensual penetration of another person’s vagina, anus, or mouth by a body part or an object.

The deadlines for filing a clergy sexual abuse claim in Michigan, particularly with the changes after June 2018, can be complicated. It’s important that survivors fully understand their rights and the potential to seek justice within these time limits. The best way to do this is to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.

Damages That Michigan Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyers Can Help You Recover

Michigan clergy sexual abuse lawyers are dedicated to helping survivors obtain justice and compensation for the harm they’ve endured. Here’s an overview of potential damages:

Economic damages cover financial losses directly related to the abuse, often including medical bills (past and future medical expenses) due to psychological and physical injuries and lost wages if you couldn’t work because of physical harm, trauma, or therapy appointments.

Non-economic damages cover non-financial losses that impact quality of life, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and emotional distress

Punitive damages are less common and may be awarded to punish particularly egregious behavior by the offender or an institution that allowed abuse to occur. They are intended to serve as a deterrent against future misconduct.

Financial Compensation Awarded in Clergy Sexual Abuse Cases

When seeking financial compensation in clergy sexual abuse cases, it’s important to recognize that there is no standard “go-to” amount. There are various elements influencing the outcome, including intensity of trauma, duration of abuse, impact on quality of life and career prospects, and more.

Some notable results we’ve achieved in cases where abuse occurred at the hands of clergy members include:

  • We settled a case for a man who was assaulted by a priest at his catholic elementary school for $2 million.
  • A man was assaulted at a church retreat 40 years before filing a claim. We were able to secure a settlement of almost $2 million. This was particularly notable because we were able to file under a repressed memory theory, which essentially paused the statute of limitations.
  • We were able to reach a sizeable confidential settlement for a nun who was assaulted by a priest for a period of three years. The settlement occurred before litigation was even initiated.

History of Catholic Priest Abuse in Michigan

The Michigan Attorney General’s office has been actively investigating and bringing charges against numerous Catholic priests for criminal acts such as abuse and sexual assaults. This initiative is part of a broader effort to address and combat clergy sex abuse and hold the church accountable.

Some notable cases in Michigan include the following:

Timothy Michael Crowley, Lansing Diocese

Timothy Michael Crowley began abusing a 10-year-old altar boy, which continued for more than a decade. In 2019, Crowley faced charges in the Washtenaw County District Court for four counts of first-degree and four counts of second-degree sexual criminal conduct. He ultimately pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 1 year in jail and 5 years of probation.

Vincent DeLorenzo, Lansing Diocese

Vincent DeLorenzo began molesting a five-year-old boy in 1995 who attended Holy Redeemer Parish.

In 2002 after another allegation, he admitted himself to have had inappropriate sexual contact with another underage boy.

Since 2002, seven additional victims came forward stating that they’d been sexually assaulted as minors by Father Vincent DeLorenzo. In response to these allegations, the Michigan Attorney General decided to formally charge him with first and third-degree criminal sexual conduct in 2019.

In April of 2023, Father DeLorenzo pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct with the five-year-old boy in exchange for dropping the other charges.

Gary Berthiaume

In 1978, Father Gary Berthiaume, a Catholic priest, was charged by prosecutors for sexually abusing two minors in Detroit, Michigan. After Berthiaume confessed to the abuse, he was sentenced by a Wayne County Circuit Court judge to serve six months in jail.

Following his release from jail, Berthiaume was assigned to the Cleveland Diocese. During his time there, he sexually abused another minor.

Finally, in 2022, Father Berthiaume pleaded no contest to charges of sexually abusing young boys and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Common Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse and the Consequences They Suffer

Clergy sexual abuse, a deeply troubling issue within various religious institutions, predominantly victimizes children and vulnerable adults, leading to profound and lasting emotional, psychological, and spiritual consequences. These effects often include:

  • Emotional trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Loss of faith
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Substance abuse
  • Career and educational disruption
  • Difficulty trusting authority figures

If you or a loved one has suffered sexual abuse, it’s crucial to understand that you don’t have to navigate this journey alone. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can provide the compassionate support and expert legal representation needed to seek justice and secure the compensation you deserve.

Legal Options That Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors Can Pursue

Clergy sexual abuse survivors have several options when considering legal action:

  • Criminal Charges: Prosecutors can hold the abuser and hold religious institutions accountable by filing criminal charges.
  • Civil Lawsuit: Survivors may file a lawsuit against their abuser and potentially the institution that enabled the abuse. A civil lawsuit can provide appropriate compensation to support healing and recovery efforts and hold all enablers accountable.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolutions (ADR): Options such as mediation or arbitration might be available for those seeking a settlement without going through a trial.

At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, our focus is on helping you pursue civil lawsuits. These are instrumental in securing compensation for damages victims have suffered due to clergy sexual abuse, supporting your journey toward healing and rebuilding your life.

Common Challenges Expected in Michigan Clergy Sexual Abuse Claims

Navigating Michigan clergy sexual abuse can present common challenges, and being aware of what you might face can be helpful in preparing you for this journey. Some common challenges include:

  • Evidence Gathering: Obtaining sufficient evidence years after the abuse occurred is also difficult, especially because religious institutions purposely cover these crimes up and may not be willing to cooperate.
  • Perceived Victim Credibility: Survivors may face skepticism regarding their accounts, since the crimes often occurred many years or decades ago.
  • Emotional Toll: The process can stir up intense emotional pain and trauma for survivors, making engagement in legal processes challenging.

Despite these challenges, survivors should know that pursuing justice is not only about holding perpetrators accountable but also about self-healing and closure. With the support of experienced legal advocates like Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, overcoming these hurdles becomes more feasible.

Filing a Civil Lawsuit With Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers

Filing a clergy sex abuse claim with Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers involves several steps. These include:

  • Free, no-obligation consultation
  • Confidentiality
  • Evidence collection
  • Negotiation with defendant
  • A trial if no negotiations are reached

If you believe that you have a valid civil claim against a clergy member or the catholic church, do not hesitate to reach out to our team at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers.

Who Can Be Held Liable in a Michigan Clergy Sexual Abuse Claim?

The potential liable parties in a Michigan clergy sexual abuse claim usually include:

  • The Abuser: The individual who committed the act of abuse can be held personally liable.
  • Religious Institution: Religious institutions like catholic churches may have facilitated the abuser’s actions by failing to respond appropriately and thus might face responsibility for enabling abusers and perpetuating the sometimes permanent harm caused to victims.
  • Schools: Educational institutions could potentially face negligence charges if they failed to report past misconduct or ignored suspicious activities
  • Others In Authority: Those who hold positions of authority and leadership roles could also be held responsible. This could include employees, church leaders, lawmakers, or other adults who had knowledge of the sexual abuse but chose to remain silent or failed to take necessary action.

Each person’s case is unique, making it critical to approach an experienced attorney when dealing with such sensitive matters. Contact Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers so we can help you determine who to hold responsible for this despicable and inappropriate behavior.

What to Do If You Have Experienced or Suspect Clergy Sexual Misconduct in Michigan

If you suspect or have experienced clergy sexual misconduct in Michigan, several steps should be followed to address these grievous acts:

  • Look for Signs: If you suspect someone else has experienced this, familiarize yourself with indicators of abuse such as unexplained behavioral changes, sudden mood swings, avoidance of certain people, or fear of religious gatherings.
  • Speak Out: If you’re comfortable enough and it’s safe to do so, report the abuse directly to law enforcement authorities who are properly trained in dealing with such sensitive situations.
  • Document the Abusive Acts: Maintain a record of each incident involving abuse including the dates, times, and nature of each act. These detailed accounts can offer substantiation during any subsequent investigations or litigation.
  • Get Emotional Support: Reach out to professional mental health service providers to get necessary help and find support groups, as navigating these experiences can be an overwhelming burden without appropriate help.
  • Hire a Lawyer: Retaining the services of experienced clergy sexual abuse lawyers is essential. They will provide legal guidance, work to protect your rights, and advocate on your behalf.

The Cost of Hiring a Michigan Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyer

At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, we operate on a contingency fee basis. This means you won’t pay any upfront costs, and attorney fees are only collected if we secure compensation for you either through settlement or a trial. If we are successful, we will collect a percentage of your compensation award, as agreed with you prior we take the case.

How Long Does It Take to Settle Civil Lawsuits for Clergy Abuse in Michigan?

The duration of civil lawsuits for clergy abuse in Michigan can vary drastically. There isn’t a standardized timeframe due to several factors, including the complexity of the case, number of involved parties, and how willing each party is to seek resolution outside court via settlements.

A “simple” case with receptive defendants might result in a settlement within months. If the case is more complex or if it goes to trial, one should prepare for a process that could extend over several years.

Contact a Michigan Clergy Abuse Lawyer Today!

Confronting clergy abuse requires immense bravery and the support of a knowledgeable legal team devoted to your cause. Reach out to Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers if you or someone you know has been affected by such misconduct. Together, we can shine a light on these injustices, seeking the accountability that survivors deserve.

Resources: [1] MLive

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