Mormon Church Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
Fighting for LDS Sex Abuse Survivors Nationwide
If you or someone you love were sexually abused by a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you may have grounds to pursue legal action and a financial recovery of your damages.
The Mormon Church has been under fire for decades over claims of sexual abuse. Investigations and lawsuits show numerous incidents of sexual abuse within the LDS Church, along with allegations that the Church has for years maintained an internal system to cover up abuse.
Now, thanks to the passage of survivor-friendly legislation in states across the country, survivors of sexual abuse within the LDS church are standing up in record numbers to share their stories and hold the Mormon Church accountable.
At Levy Konigsberg, our award-winning sexual abuse team has cultivated a legacy helping adult and child sexual abuse survivors fight for justice. We have litigated high stakes sexual abuse claims against the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America, and other powerful religious organizations and institutions, and have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for survivors. If you have a potential LDS Church sexual abuse lawsuit, we can help you take the next steps.
Decades of Legal Filings, Investigations Detail History of Sexual Abuse in the Mormon Church
Sweeping investigations, legal filings, and criminal arrests have contributed to a growing cache of evidence about sexual abuse within the Mormon Church.
According to reports, the LDS fostered an insulated culture that enabled LDS bishops, clergy, and church members to sexually abuse parishioners.
Some examples include:
- On January 30th, 2024, Rhett Hintze a "stake president" in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was charged by the Pennsylvania State Police. The charges allege that he did not report accusations of child sex abuse against a former bishop, Boy Scout leader, and attorney in central Pennsylvania in connection to the July 2023 charges against Shawn Gooden.
- In December 2023, the Associated Press published an article detailing how the LDS Church maintained a Risk Management Division and internal processes intended to shield the Church from sexual abuse allegations and their associated liabilities. The article details the story of a woman who was repeatedly sexually abused by her father John Goodrich, a former LDS Bishop in Hailey, Idaho, and how, despite the father’s confession of the abuse to another bishop prior to his arrest, the father evaded conviction by relying on the Church’s protection, including its practice of offering cash payouts in exchange for confidentiality and pledges from victims to destroy evidence, and a controversial Utah law that exempts clergy from reporting information about child sexual abuse obtained from religious confessions. It also discussed how Goodridge was able to evade sex crime charges in connection to claims brought by another LDS church member who accused the former bishop of raping her after giving her the drug Halcion. Goodrich pleaded guilty to only a charge of distribution of a controlled substance in that case and was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
- In April 2023, a jury in Riverside County, California awarded $2.8 billion in damages to a woman who had been sexually abused for years by her stepfather at her Mormon Church and other locations. According to the suit, rather than notifying authorities after she disclosed the abuse, a bishop and other Mormon Church leaders held a meeting and instructed her to forgive her stepfather, and ultimately shamed her into silence. The church settled its part of the lawsuit for $1 million prior to the jury’s award.
- In January 2023, the LDS Church agreed to pay $1.1 million to settle a lawsuit brought by a Washington man who was sexually abused as a preschooler by a teenage volunteer in his Tacoma congregation. The suit claimed that when the plaintiffs told their Mountain View Ward bishop of the abuse involving their then 5-year-old child in the 1980s, the bishop informed them that the volunteer had been accused of sexual abuse months before, but dissuaded them from going to authorities.
- In August 2022, an AP article detailed another shocking story of the Mormon Church’s internal handling of sexual abuse allegations regarding a father who admitted while in counseling with his bishop that he had been sexually abusing his 5-year-old daughter. According to the article, the bishop called the Church’s “help line” for guidance and was told not to report the allegations to authorities or child welfare officials. By keeping silent, the bishop enabled the father to continue raping his daughter for another seven years before he was arrested by Homeland Security agents in 2017. The article went on to discuss how the Church regularly used this hotline to keep sexual abuse allegations within the Church where they could be buried away from authorities and a pending lawsuit against the Church over its use of these tactics.
- In September 2022, Carl Matthew Johnson, a former LDS bishop and mayor of West Bountiful, Utah, was arrested on charges that he sexually abused at least three children in the 1980s and 1990s. According to investigators, Johnson was suspected of abusing as many as six victims, including one as young as 2-years-old. They also stated that his victims were instructed by the LDS Church to keep silent about their abuse.
- In February 2021, a lawsuit was filed against the LDS Church by an Oregon man who was sexually abused as a minor by a youth leader in his Oregon Mormon congregation. The suit claims that the man was abused by Ron Kerlee in the 1980s, and that the Church allowed Kerlee to stay on as a youth leader even after he was convicted of sodomy in 1983. Kerlee remained affiliated with the Church and continued to work as a licensed counselor in Oregon until his license was revoked in 2014 for engaging in sexual conduct with a male client.
- In November 2018, the LDS Church agreed to pay a confidential sum to settle lawsuits brought by four Native Americans who claimed that they were sexually abused by enrolled in a Mormon Church foster program decades ago. The lawsuits were among more than a dozen filed by members of the Navajo Nation and Crow Tribe of Montana concerning sexual abuse in the Indian Student Placement Program, which placed thousands of Native American youth into Mormon foster homes in Utah, Idaho, and New Mexico, between the 1960s and early 1980s. The program ended in 2000.
- In April 2018, the Mormon Church agreed to a confidential settlement to end a civil trial in Berkeley County, West Virginia brought by survivors who alleged that they were sexually abused by LDS member Christopher Michael Jensen, who was sentenced in 2013 to 35-75 years in prison for sexually abusing two minors. The suit claimed that the Mormon Church knew about Jensen’s sexual abuse convictions and allegations for years, including his arrest and felony indictment at the age of 13 in 2004, but did nothing to protect the children.
- In August 2017, Mormon Leaks™ published a document compiling records of more than 300 instances of sexual abuse committed by church leaders from 1959 to 2017. The report contains abuse allegations involving church officials from California, Idaho, Utah, Florida, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, and numerous other states.
These and numerous other filings and investigations serve to illustrate a critical point: the LDS Church has for decades viewed sexual abuse survivors not as people or victims, but as potential threats to the church’s reputation and bottom line. Further, they show that bishops and church officials relied on expertly structured internal divisions, policies, and “best practices,” when handling complaints of sexual abuse brought by church members – all of which were intended to keep allegations away from authorities and within the church itself, where they could be buried and hidden from view.
Now, a growing number of LDS sexual abuse survivors are taking a stand to fight back and pursue civil legal action. These civil lawsuits function not only to out the Church’s internal processes for silencing sexual abuse allegations and hold them accountable for decades of willful deceit, but to also provide survivors with the justice and compensation they deserve.
At Levy Konigsberg, we’re passionate about helping survivors tell their stories, as we know they are a powerful tool for achieving accountability, protecting others, and ensuring that justice is served. If you have a potential case involving sexual abuse within the LDS Church and improper handling of complaints by an LDS bishop or Mormon church official, we want to help.
What is the Statute of Limitations for LDS Sexual Abuse Lawsuits?
Like other civil “torts,” or legal actions that seek a recovery of damages, sexual abuse lawsuits are subject to a legal deadline known as the statute of limitations. If you have a potential sexual abuse claim, it’s important to know the statute of limitations that applies to your case, as survivors are generally barred from filing lawsuits and recovering compensation if the statute of limitations has expired.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy for survivors to accurately assess the statute of limitations applicable to their claim. That’s because laws regarding filing deadlines vary depending on several factors, including:
- The state where your abuse occurred. States can have vastly different statutes of limitations for civil sexual abuse lawsuits, as well as nuanced rules or requirements.
- Your age at the time of abuse. Most states differentiate between claims involving survivors who were abused by adults and survivors who were abused as children. While survivors of childhood sexual abuse are typically granted more time to file, that time may not always be significant.
- Delayed discovery rules. Laws in some states allow survivors to “toll” or delay the statute of limitations in their case until the “date of discovery,” which is when a survivor “discovers” the connection between their abuse and the harm they’ve suffered, including depression, relationship issues, substance abuse problems, and other issues. The delayed discovery rule, when applicable, provides survivors who often repress and block memories with more time to file civil legal actions.
In addition to these factors, statutes of limitations in civil sexual abuse cases can be subject to new legal changes. Laws regarding the rights of survivors are rapidly evolving, and more and more states are passing survivor-friendly measures that better account for the challenges survivors face when processing their abuse, connecting that abuse to the damages in their lives, and making the courageous decision to step forward. Some also pass laws that retroactively lift filing deadlines or create temporary filing windows for survivors with decades-old claims to seek justice.
Some state-specific examples of the statute of limitations for civil sexual abuse cases and pending or recently passed survivor-friendly laws include:
- In Maryland, a new law has removed the statute of limitations on child sex abuse claims and revived claims that previously expired.
- In Pennsylvania, a pending bill would create a temporary two-year window for survivors to file claims.
- In Maine, new laws lifted the statute of limitations for all child sexual abuse lawsuits and created an indefinite lookback window for survivors with previously time-barred claims.
- In California, adults have 10 years from the date of abuse or 3 years from the date of discovery to file claims for sexual abuse and survivors of child sexual abuse have until the age of 40 or within 5 years of discovery to file claims. A temporary one-year lookback window was also created for adult sexual abuse claims involving certain factors, but that window closed in 2023.
- In Washington, state lawmakers are considering a measure that would eliminate the statute of limitations in civil sexual abuse cases and retroactively apply the law to previously time-barred claims, giving survivors an opportunity to file legal actions over abuse that occurred as any time.
- In Idaho, the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse lawsuits is capped at 23. However, there is a delayed discovery rule that allows survivors to file a suit within five years of discovering the connection between their abuse and resulting damages.
- In Utah, survivors of child sexual abuse are permitted to file civil claims against abusers no matter how long ago their abuse occurred, but claims against institutions are capped at age 23 or within 4 years of the date of discovery.
Given the variance in state laws and the rapid pace of legislative amendments, it can be difficult to determine the statute of limitations that applies to your case. However, because these laws enforce strict filing deadlines and occasionally limited filing windows for retroactive claims, it’s important to be prompt in seeking information about your rights and options.
At Levy Konigsberg, our Mormon Church sexual abuse lawyers are readily available to answer questions regarding the statute of limitations and how we can help you in the fight for justice. We offer FREE and confidential consultations and serve survivors nationwide.
Do I Have a Case?
You may have grounds to file a civil legal action if:
- You were sexually abused by a Mormon bishop, clergy member, volunteer, or church member;
- The abuse occurred in any LDS Church, ward, congregation, or Mormon-affiliated program in the U.S.
At Levy Konigsberg, we are committed to fighting for justice on behalf of child sex abuse survivors and their families. These civil claims are separate from any criminal proceedings against abusers and focus on holding the LDS Church liable for damages. This means that you may still have a claim even if:
- Your abuser is no longer alive.
- Your abuser was never charged or convicted of a crime.
Recoverable Damages in LDS Church Sexual Abuse Claims
In addition to accountability and providing the sense of justice survivors deserve, civil sex abuse lawsuits allow survivors to recover financial compensation for their damages, which may include:
- Past medical and mental health expenses
- Future mental health expenses, including therapy, medications, etc.
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional anguish and psychological harm
- Lost income
- Other economic and non-economic damages
Call For a FREE Consultation: (800) 315-3806
Levy Konigsberg has recovered more than $3 billion in compensation for clients, including more than $50 million in compensation for survivors of sexual abuse. We’re passionate about helping survivors seek justice and provide the firepower they need to fight back against powerful institutions like the LDS Church.
If you have questions about pursuing a sexual abuse lawsuit against the Mormon Church, we want to help. Call (800) 315-3806 or contact us online for a FREE consultation.
Find out whether you have a case by speaking to one of our experienced lawyers via our 24/7 toll-free hotline or by submitting an email inquiry. Our attorneys will be quick to respond to you and happy to answer all of your questions.
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