In an opinion yesterday, Judge Broderick dismissed a putative class action brought by former participants in the Catholic Church’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Programs who had accepted settlements relating to childhood sex abuse claims. The plaintiffs sought to undo the settlements on the theory that the settlement amounts were fraudulently induced, insofar as they were not determined “independently” but instead were the product of interference from the Church itself and subject to an undisclosed cap of $500,000.
Judge Broderick found that the factual allegations supporting these theories, which had been pleaded as based only on “information and belief,” was insufficient:
Plaintiffs claim that Defendants imposed a settlement cap of $500,000 on offers to victims, yet provide no supporting facts for this claim other than other than proclaiming it to be true “upon information and belief.” Plaintiffs similarly provide no factual basis for their statement that IRCP Administrators were hired and compensated by Defendants and constrained by Defendants in adjudicating Plaintiffs’ claims. Although well-pled facts that Defendants directed and limited the settlement amounts obtainable by IRCP participants might belie Defendants’ assertions of the Programs’ independence, here, Plaintiffs’ bare assertions that Defendants indeed interfered in the administration of these Programs, without any accompanying factual allegations to support those assertions, do not rise to a plausible claim that Defendants’ representations of independence were indeed fraudulent.