Victim Oriented Tort Law in Action: An Empirical Examination of Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Cases

Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, 15(1) (2018 Forthcoming)

Empirical Legal Studies Conferences, Conference on Empirical Legal Studies in Europe (CELSE) 2016

Maastricht Faculty of Law Working Paper No. 2738633

Maastricht European Private Law Institute Working Paper No. 2016/06

51 Pages Posted: 29 Feb 2016 Last revised: 8 Jan 2018

Gijs van Dijck

Maastricht University - Faculty of Law

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 11, 2016

Abstract

Catholic Church sexual abuse cases have received worldwide attention, with investigations and many lawsuits reported in various countries. This study examines a procedure, a hybrid between tort litigation and a victims compensation fund, that not only allowed sexual abuse victims to seek monetary compensation on an individual basis, but also non-monetary relief that includes an apology, recognition, or measures against the accused. The availability of all decisions offers a unique opportunity to analyze what victims pursued by filing a claim, what they received, and what impacted the probability of victims obtaining non-monetary relief. After analyzing almost 1,000 decisions, this study exposes three threats to addressing victims’ needs in a tort law and victims compensation funds context. First, a mismatch is found between what victims sought and what they were offered, suggesting that adjudicators ignored the non-monetary needs expressed by the victims. Second, offering or providing non-monetary relief proved to be detrimental to the defendant’s case, which may discourage wrongdoers to offer non-monetary relief prior to the decision in ordinary tort law. Third, the results reveal that adding adversarial elements to a procedure reduces the likelihood of victims obtaining non-monetary relief. The findings suggest that designing a procedure that is intended to address victims’ needs (monetary and non-monetary) may end up resembling ordinary tort law. This study demonstrates that tort law faces important challenges when addressing non-monetary needs of victims.

Keywords: tort, Catholic Church, sexual abuse, empirical, legal needs, victim-oriented

JEL Classification: K13

Suggested Citation

van Dijck, Gijs, Victim Oriented Tort Law in Action: An Empirical Examination of Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Cases (November 11, 2016). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, 15(1) (2018 Forthcoming); Empirical Legal Studies Conferences, Conference on Empirical Legal Studies in Europe (CELSE) 2016; Maastricht Faculty of Law Working Paper No. 2738633; Maastricht European Private Law Institute Working Paper No. 2016/06. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2738633 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2738633

Gijs Van Dijck (Contact Author)

Maastricht University - Faculty of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 616
Maastricht, 6200
Netherlands

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.maastrichtuniversity.nl/gijs.vandijck

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