Abuse Victim Wins Massive Settlement From Canadian Catholic Diocese

May 8, 2009

Beckett Personal Injury Office's Scales of Justice's article image

WINDSOR, Ont. -- A victim of pedophile priest Charles Sylvestre has secured a record-setting settlement from the London, Ont. diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, just days before her civil lawsuit was to proceed to trial.

Lou Ann Soontiens, who endured five years of abuse as a girl and underwent a forced abortion, will share her story and announce details of the historic settlement Friday in London.

It is believed to be in the seven-figure range and, according to her lawyer, Robert Talach, it is "the largest settlement of an individual sexual abuse case in Canadian history."

The settlement was reached Tuesday evening.

Sylvestre was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty in 2006 to sexually assaulting 47 girls over 40 years in Windsor, Chatham, Pain Court, Sarnia and London. Publicity surrounding his case prompted more victims to come forward. Sylvestre died in Kingston Penitentiary in January 2007, less than four months into his sentence.

Mr. Talach said Ms. Soontiens was both excited and disappointed to have reached a settlement on the eve of her civil trial, which she filed three years ago and which was set for trial Monday.

"There was excitement that it was done and that the long haul was over but there was some disappointment that the full story of Sylvestre has yet to be told," said Mr. Talach of Ledroit Beckett in London.

"As you can appreciate, the public has not had exposure to the full facts of what happened here. Some of the evidence is protected until it is used in a trial and some of the evidence is new."

Mark Adkinson, spokesman for the diocese of London, said church officials were pleased to have reached a "fair and reasonable settlement" with Ms. Soontiens and were "committed to living up to our responsibilities and obligations to victims and their search for justice and truth."

Adkinson added the Church was "sorry for all the hurt" that Ms. Soontiens and other victims of Sylvestre have experienced. The church will continue to offer counselling to Sylvestre's victims as "part of the healing process," said Mr. Adkinson.

Mr. Talach said Ms. Soontiens' story is a "roller-coaster of facts and misery" and that she was sharing it in a bid to empower victims who have been abused or are being abused.

"She wants the focus to be on the fact that there are other women out there still seeking justice," said Mr. Talach.

"She also wants people out there who may be suffering abuse right now, or young children who are afraid to speak up, to take from her example that justice can be achieved."

Identifying Long-Term Care Negligence

January 31, 2023

Identifying Long-Term Care Negligence

While you rely on long-term care facilities to care of your family members and provide for their physical and mental wellbeing, it's important that you understand the warning signs of long-term care negligence and when it's necessary to report a complaint. Read our latest blog for more information:

Read More
Slip and Fall Accidents in the Winter Months

January 27, 2023

Slip and Fall Accidents in the Winter Months

Slip and fall accidents are a common occurrence during the winter months, as snow and ice can create hazardous conditions that make it easy to lose your footing. These accidents can lead to serious injuries, including broken bones, head injuries, back and neck injuries, and can have long-term consequences for those affected.

Read More
Car Accident Claims: Know The Process

December 12, 2022

Car Accident Claims: Know The Process

If you've been involved in a motor vehicle accident, it's important that you know the legal processes involved in claiming benefits and seeking the compensation that you're entitled to. For more information, check out our blog post.

Read More