Feb 19, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Pennsylvania diocese files for bankruptcy amid sexual abuse lawsuits

Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

The Diocese of Harrisburg became the first in Pennsylvania to seek bankruptcy protection on Wednesday, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Pennsylvania influenced a series of investigations into Catholic dioceses across the country when state Attorney General Josh Shapiro released a grand jury inquiry into six dioceses, including Harrisburg, in mid-2018.

  • Though state law prohibits victims of past abuse from suing their alleged perpetrators, a 2019 appellate court decision allowed victims to sue their dioceses beyond the statute of limitations.

What they're saying: "An attorney for the Harrisburg Diocese said it has been the target of several lawsuits since that opinion, while adding that he did not blame abuse victims for the diocese’s financial instability," per the Post.

Details: Bankruptcy proceedings freeze lawsuits in the 15 counties the diocese covers, and victims would be compensated as part of the bankruptcy judgment, per the Post.

  • Dioceses across the state paid almost $84 million to 564 sexual abuse victims as of December, per an AP review.

The big picture: 20 Catholic dioceses across the country have filed for bankruptcy protection since 2004, per BishopAccountability.org.

Go deeper

Why the Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy

Victims' rights Attorney Jeff Anderson speaks to media during a press conference on April 23, 2019. Photo: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AFP via Getty Images

The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy protection this week with the sole purpose of relieving the legal pressure it faces from sexual abuse victims.

Why it matters: Bankruptcy means that a judge will put a ceiling on how much BSA will pay to victims. The proceedings could limit the degree to which local councils' billions of dollars' worth of assets can be awarded to victims.

Podcast: The impact of the Boy Scouts' bankruptcy filing

The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy this week in the face of hundreds of lawsuits from men alleging that they were sexually abused during their time in the organization. Pro Rata producer Naomi Shavin and Axios reporter Courtenay Brown discuss how the bankruptcy filing could shape the creation of a victims' compensation fund and what it means for the flood of lawsuits.

Go deeper: Why the Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy

Mallinckrodt proposes $1.6 billion opioid settlement via bankruptcy

Mallinckrodt offices in New Jersey. Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Mallinckrodt is floating a $1.6 billion proposal to settle allegations that it fueled the opioid crisis by pushing its painkillers. The drug company would make payments in the eight years after its generics business, which sells oxycodone and hydrocodone pills, emerges from bankruptcy.

Why it matters: The attorneys general from 47 states and territories, as well as the plaintiffs in the global opioid lawsuit, are supporting the deal, Mallinckrodt said. Mallinckrodt's brand-name drug business will not be affected, but its generics bankruptcy marks the third opioids bankruptcy, after Purdue Pharma and Insys Therapeutics.