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Originally published January 29, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 29, 2009 at 12:04 AM

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Seattle Archdiocese, Christian Brothers reach $7M settlement with ex-students

Thirteen men who say they were abused at Briscoe Memorial School in the 1960s have reached a $7 million settlement with the Seattle Archdiocese and the Christian Brothers order.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Some 40 years after they attended Briscoe Memorial School in Kent, 13 men who said they were abused as students there have reached a $7 million settlement with the Seattle Roman Catholic Archdiocese, which owned the school, and the Congregation of Christian Brothers, the religious order that ran it.

The settlement marks an end to most of the lawsuits filed to date alleging physical and sexual abuse over the decades by authority figures at the now-defunct boarding school.

The 13 men said they were abused at Briscoe in the 1960s. Of the $7 million, the Seattle Archdiocese agreed to pay $1.25 million, the Christian Brothers about $3.63 million, and an insurance company that jointly covered both institutions about $2.13 million.

In November, 11 men who said they had been abused at Briscoe in the 1950s settled with the Seattle Archdiocese and Christian Brothers for $7.15 million. Of that, the Seattle Archdiocese agreed to pay $2.7 million and the Christian Brothers $4.45 million.

In 2006, the Seattle Archdiocese and Christian Brothers settled three other cases involving Briscoe.

Briscoe, which opened in 1909 and closed around 1970, had been a home for thousands of boys. Some of the former students said they got an education there they otherwise never would've gotten. But others said they were subject to abuse.

"As in every case involving sexual abuse, we hope our efforts to reach a fair and just settlement will help the victims begin the process of healing," Seattle Archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni said in a statement.

Steve Mangione, spokesman for the Christian Brothers, said the order takes "very seriously all allegations."

It settled the cases, he said, because it would have been extremely difficult to defend against the allegations, since many of the witnesses and defendants are now dead or infirm and relevant records no longer exist.

Given that, the order's legal advisers believed "the allegations would not have been accurately or fairly represented during a trial," Mangione said.

But plaintiffs' attorney Michael Pfau said there was "overwhelming evidence that Briscoe was a problem institution and they knew that children were being harmed there." Pfau said such evidence included brothers who had been removed for molesting children, correspondence between the order's leaders discussing children being abused and numerous instances when boys had complained.

Among lawsuits still to be resolved is one Pfau filed in December saying that in an earlier case, the order had claimed to have no evidence that an accused Christian Brother had abused. But after the case settled, the "Christian Brothers found or located documents" that indicated the accused was being removed from the order for inappropriate conduct with children at Briscoe, Pfau said.

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The plaintiff in that case said he had been abused at Briscoe in the 1940s, and had settled for $315,000 in 2007.

"The value of the settlement would've been different had we had those documents," Pfau said. He plans to file additional lawsuits under that theory.

Mangione, the Christian Brothers spokesman, said he could not comment on the lawsuit until the order's attorneys have thoroughly reviewed it.

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or jtu@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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