BILLINGS – The Diocese of Great Falls-Billings has agreed to pay $20 million to settle 86 sexual abuse claims.
The law firms representing the victims issued a press release Friday morning announcing the settlement.
The claims, initially filed in 2011, alleges priests and nuns working for the diocese sexually abused children for four decades beginning in the 1950s.
The settlement was reached on Tuesday following mediation.
According to the press release, The Diocese filed for bankruptcy in March 2017, just months before the first of many jury trials were scheduled to begin.
The Diocese later asked to dismiss the bankruptcy action.
Among the cases that would have first gone to trial was a case involving Fr. Joseph Heretick, according the press release issued Friday. In that case, plaintiffs alleged the Diocese knew that Heretick was a danger to children and ignored complaints from parents about his conduct.
The attorneys said documents produced as part of the litigation showed the Bishop of the Great Falls Diocese sent Heretick to a treatment center for pedophile priests in the 1980s and the center recommended Heretick not be placed back in the ministry.
The attorneys said the Bishop ignored that recommendation.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.