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Nj lawyer sued; supposedly broke confidentiality agreement

A Catholic religious order has sued the lawyer for several people who claim to be victims of priests who worked at a Catholic school where the alleged victims studied in their youth. In the underlying case, the plaintiffs (i.e., the lawyer's clients) are alleging that the priests sexually abused them and that the school covered the matter up. On its part, the Catholic religious order's suit against the lawyer alleges that he violated a provision in a prior settlement agreement in an unrelated abuse case that required that the terms of the settlement remain strictly confidential.

One of the lawyer's current clients describes the religious order's suit as an act of intimidation designed to keep other victims from reporting sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy serving the school. The man also said that victims need to speak publicly about the abuse they suffered in order to maintain a measure of power in their lives and that doing so is essential to healing from this type of child injury.

In response to the suit, the lawyer accused the order of violating commitments to openness with respect to clergy sexual abuse allegations.

As this case illustrates, New Jersey courts may enforce agreements to keep a settlement confidential. Those who suffer because of another person's reckless or careless conduct may elect, instead of a trial, to settle the matter outside of court. In exchange for money, a defendant may demand that the plaintiff keep the terms of the settlement and the entire matter quiet. This may be especially important for a defendant when the case involves an injury to a child, and particularly in a child sex abuse case. This is because the defendant has a vested interested in minimizing the harm to its reputation.

Therefore, before agreeing to resolve a case before it goes to a court, a plaintiff should carefully consider whether the amount the defendant is willing to offer to settle will really be worth having to keep the matter out of the public eye.

Source: Morris NewsBee, "Delbarton's lawsuit against client's lawyer called 'intimidation'," Phil Garber, Dec. 7, 2012

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