Six cases against the Watchtower Society involving 10 alleged victims brought before civil courts in California were reportedly settled (the court documents show they were 'dismissed with prejudice') on February 13, 2007. "Spearheading the lawsuits is Texas law firm Love and Norris, which initially approached Nolen Saul Brelsford about the California cases," according to an article by journalist Joy Lanzendorfer. Apparently such lawsuits were the result of a 2003 or 2004 law enacted in California that extended the statute of limitations which allowed cases that happened as far back as the 1970's to be filed.
Originally, Brelsford brought 17 cases against Jehovah's Witnesses throughout California but 11 cases were dropped or dismissed leaving the remaining six lawsuits. At some point the law firm of Love and Norris had jumped on board and the six remaining lawsuits were subsequently lumped together into one large lawsuit in Napa Valley. It is most interesting that you often read about these lawsuits being filed at sites such a Silentlambs but you rarely hear about it when they are dismissed or dropped as in the case of 11 out of the 17 cases filed by Brelsford.
Gerard, a poster at the site known as JWD, who claims to be a friend and supporter of attorney Kimberlee Norris of Love and Norris, reports that she said she would never settle these cases. Here are his exact words: "... I am extremely disapointed on Kimberly Norris, their attorney. I asked her a couple of years ago in this list and she said she would never settle. I guess everyone has a price...lawyers standing on the sidelines are not an exception. A lawyer needs more abuses in the future to keep settling them out of court. Why kill the hen that lays gold eggs?" Later he reiterated, "For the record: Kim told me she would not settle, so that was disapointing and caused me anger as I felt she lied."
Assuming that he is not lying (why would he since he is a supporter of Norris against the Watchtower Society) and assuming the cases were settled out of court, then we have to wonder why did she settle out of court when she claimed she never would? Indeed why did all 10 persons involved in the 6 cases choose to settle with a confidentiality agreement or gag order as some call it?
Usually an ambulance chaser, like Kim Norris, pursues these cases with no money being fronted by the plaintiffs, meaning they volunteer their time, but collect 40% of the resulting judgment or settlement. If they discover their case is weak, they can put a lot of pressure on the plaintiffs to settle, otherwise the plaintiffs would have to pay out of their own pockets to continue pursuing the case. Most cannot afford to do so, so they must accept the advice of their attorney. Hence you have 10 out of 10 settling their cases and not one holding out to prove their case. It is also most revealing that shortly thereafter, three other cases involving six other alleged victims in Texas, Oregon, and San Diego were likewise settled with the same 'gag order' agreement.
You may have heard that the settlements involved MILLIONS of dollars. Those who make such claims really have no idea of the amount. They are merely guessing and it is a baseless guess. Innocent defendants oftentimes offer settlements to end cases and if we look at history of the Watchtower Society we will see that they almost always do the same. This is no indication of guilt on the part of the defendant. While there is no way of knowing how much was offered in these 9 cases involving 16 alleged victims, there are two cases we know details about that we can look at as a barometer.
First lets examine an abuse case brought against the Mormon Church because of John Charles Blome. Quoting from one source we read: "This civil case was filed in Montgomery County, Texas and went to jury trial. The case settled for $4 Million after the Mormons were found negligent. A 13 year old boy who was molested by a Mormon Church youth leader in Magnolia Ward was awarded more than his own lawyers sought October 8, 1998. Blome molested many other boys from the same area and in other areas. Sheriff's deputies were upset that the Mormon Bishop tipped Blome to the pending investigation, and he burned evidence before it could be seized. In an earlier case against Blome the Mormon Church was also found negligent."
As you see this case went before the jury and the Mormon Church was found negligent. Then what happened? It was settled for 4 million dollars. And as you see this was the SECOND time the Church had been found negligent because of this man. We can certainly realize that this is one of the worse cases of negligence that could possibly happen. Now, when considering the above case, does it seem plausible to believe that the Watchtower Society would make a settlement offer of 3 or 4 million dollars per case BEFORE the trials, equaling what the Mormons paid AFTER being found negligent in court, not once but twice, in addition to being found guilty of burning evidence? Why, before the trial even began, would the Watchtower Society offer as much as they would stand to lose even if they were found negligent as a result of the trial? Millions of dollars offered by the Watchtower Society pre-trial? Highly unlikely!
The second case is the Vicki Boer case. How much was Vicki Boer offered? Millions? Hundreds of thousands? According to Vicki Boer herself she was offered $50,000 dollars if she would agree not to talk about the case. Opposers would like us to believe that the Watchtower Society went from offering someone $50,000 dollars in one case to offering 3 or 4 million dollars per case as in the California lawsuits. As for Boer, she declined the offer because she said it wasn't about money but rather justice for the children. Reminescent of the game show, Deal or No Deal, she risked the $50,000 dollars and wound up with nothing. No, even worse than that! She wound up owing her lawyers $90,000 and the Watchtower Society $137,000.
Kimberly Norris and the 16 persons in the cases recently settled faced a similar situation. Would they risk the money offered and possibly wind up in the same situation as Vicki Boer? Did they have such confidence in their case that they would not think twice about taking the money because the Watchtower Society needed to be exposed? The facts speak for themselves. They took the money and agreed to the gag order.
Bill Bowen of SilentLambs commented about the settlement: "On one hand, we're glad a few victims are finally getting some financial help. On the other hand, we're sad and worried because they've essentially been forced to give up their right to protect others by speaking out about their abuse to the public." But were they really 'forced to give up their right to protect others by speaking out'? No, they were not forced into secrecy. No one put a gun to their head. They could reject the settlement offer if they wanted to, and proceed with the trial. Of their own free will they CHOSE to sign on the dotted line and thus AGREED to the gag order.
The fact that they settled leaves us with only 3 possibilities:
1. Their case was weak and they doubted they would win so they took the offer.
2. Kimberly Norris insisted on the settlement or else she was pulling out because the money in hand outweighed the risk.
3. The money, for whatever reasons, was more important than exposing the Watchtower Society.
I know if I had irrefutable proof that the elders covered up child abuse, knowingly appointed a pedophile to a position of leadership or transferred him to another congregation as an elder, and as a result the pedophile elder molested more children, I would NEVER settle. However if I had a weak case with little hope of winning, I would settle in a heart beat, even if it required a gag order. Can you imagine this prayer being offered up? 'Dear Lord, I really wanted to expose the bad old Satanic Watchtower organization and their pedophile paradise but money was just more important. I mean er... They twisted my arm and forced me into silence.'
Where does this settlement money come from? Isn't it true that some of the money donated by the brothers and sisters for the worldwide work is being used for paying legal expenses? And since this is the case, is this not a misuse of funds and perhaps even a breach of trust?
Well truth be known, settlement money does not come from donations made to the worldwide work. Such donations are strictly used for the furtherance of the good news of the Kingdom. Since the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is a huge corportation, overseeing thousands of Kingdom Halls and other assets, they must quite naturally purchase insurance as any corporation must do. Thus the Watchtower Society has created a fund just for that purpose called the Kingdom Hall Assistance Arrangement. Money is donated specifically to that account by the congregations.
For example, in the United States an average of less than 40 cents per publisher is donated each month to that insurance fund. When claims of negligence, for any reason, made against the Watchtower Society, congregations, or elders and ministerial servants performing assigned duties for the congregations or Society are upheld and/or settlements are reached to curtail expenses, their insurance would pay. Of course, there may be a deductible to pay in which case the Watchtower Society would pay that out of the excess funds in the Kingdom Hall Assistance Arrangement account.
To those who object to the Watchtower Society using donated funds to defend themselves, what is the alternative? Open up the bank accounts to one and all who have a dispute or who claim abuse? Is that being responsible with donations?
But still, doesn't the settlement prove that the Watchtower Society was in the wrong? The fact is, if you examine the documents of dismissal you will see that all the cases were 'dismissed with prejudice'. 'Dismissed with prejudice' means that the court has dismissed the case and plaintiffs cannot bring the case to court again. Cases are often times 'dismissed with prejudice' if the plaintiff has shown bad faith, misled the court, persisted in filing frivolous lawsuits, or settled out of court. You will find this at http://www.answers.com/topic/prejudice-law. It is not a court judgment against the defendant and there is no admission of guilt at all by the Watchtower Society if indeed the cases were settled out of court as assumed.
Opposers say that the Watchtower Society knew they were in the wrong and so they offered a settlement. But lets consider this reasoning in light of the truth about the Boer case. The Watchtower Society knew that all the facts were in their favor. They knew that it was on record that the elders had seen to it that her father reported himself and that elders had even made an appointment for her to meet with a therapist. And yet the Watchtower Society offered a settlement. Why?
Contrary to what opposers may assume, the Watchtower's reported settlement offer of $50,000 was not made to Boer because they knew they were in the wrong and neither was the settlement offer involving the 16 persons made for that reason. The money was no doubt offered because they knew that it would cost more than that to go to trial and that it would be very time consuming. They were simply trying to offer a settlement as a way of curtailing expenses for a long drawn out court case. Not only that but Vicki Boer as a child abuse victim could have benefitted from that $50,000. But you have to wonder why the plaintiffs would take the offer along with the gag order? If they had such a strong case, why not go for more money and expose the Watchtower Society?
So then who really was the victor in the settlement? Well, consider this. If it had went to court and the Watchtower Society been found libel or guilty they would have definitely been the loser. They would have paid out millions of dollars as ordered by the court. But since it did not go to court the Watchtower Society was not found libel. The Watchtower Society was not found guilty of promoting child abuse. In short, the Watchtower Society did NOT lose. Those who were out to 'expose the evil Watchtower' failed in their mission. Kimberlee Norris supporter Gerard mentioned earlier even lamented, "...with a gag order, no reporter will want to touch it and the WT is winning." Yes, the truth still remains that the Watchtower Society has never lost not one single child abuse case brought against them in a court of law. This attest to the strength of their child abuse policy, a child abuse policy 'unequaled in the religious community'.
After Kimberlee Norris read much of what is written here she responded. Please continue.
Chapter Nineteen: Faith, Hope, Love and Norris