Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
At Levy Konigsberg, we are committed to seeking justice for those who have experienced sexual abuse, either as children or as adults. As much as individual abusers, the institutions that conceal the actions of perpetrators and protect them from criminal and civil punishment can be held accountable for failing to safeguard the health and safety of victims. With the recent passage of legislation that extends the statute of limitations and provides a “look-back period” for victims of child sexual abuse, survivors abused have an unprecedented opportunity to seek redress for their injuries. If you have been harmed by any of the following institutions, please let us help you pursue compensation for your injuries.
Class action lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct by doctors have been filed against hospitals, universities and medical programs across the United States. Some of the most high-profile cases of sexual abuse involve large-scale, egregious conduct over many years despite institutional knowledge of the abuser’s behavior. These include George Tyndall, a gynecologist at the University of Southern California, who sexually abused patients for thirty years under the guise of medical necessity. Former wrestlers from the Ohio State University allege that team physician, Richard Strauss, sexually abused hundreds of boys during the 1980s and 1990s. Victims of sexual abuse by Larry Nassar, the head athletic doctor at Michigan State University (MSU), recently reached a $500 million settlement related to claims that he sexually abused hundreds of gymnasts and athletes formerly under his care.
Pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Reginald Archibald sexually abused thousands of children during his four decades of work at Rockefeller University Hospital in New York. The hospital had knowledge and was aware of credible claims of sexual misconduct concerning Dr. Archibald since 1960, and after multiple investigations, took no action. The hospital failed to protect its most vulnerable patients. A class action lawsuit was filed after the hospital mailed over 1,000 letters to former patients of the now deceased Dr. Archibald. The hospital re-victimized patients who were sexually abused, and the recipients suffered significant emotional distress and were subjected to a gross invasion of privacy. As a result of the Child Victims Act in New York, hundreds, if not thousands of lawsuits will likely be filed against the hospital for its role in Dr. Archibald’s sexual abuse of thousands of patients at the hospital’s facilities.
Allegations of child sexual abuse against the Catholic Church date back to the 1950s. The scope of abuse is so vast that numbers of perpetrators and victims are difficult to assess. However, according to some reports, the Catholic Church has paid out nearly $4 billion to approximately 9,000 survivors since the 1980s. One on the most shocking aspects of the sexual misconduct by members of the clergy is the extent to which the Church deliberately concealed, covered up, and dismissed allegations of abuse, even going so far as destroying documents that could have been used to prosecute perpetrators and prevent future abuse of other children.
Most incidents of sexual abuse against children are committed by trusted adults, such as teachers. Abuse by school teachers and staff often persists for long periods of time because children are afraid to speak up against their abuser, or feel ashamed, embarrassed, or responsible for the egregious acts of adults they believed to be trustworthy. Schools and universities are entrusted with the care of children and young adults and are responsible for providing a safe and secure environment. An educational institution that negligently hires or supervises its staff, or takes no action upon learning of sexual misconduct, fails to fulfill its duty to its students. Title IX, which prohibits sexual assault, sexual harassment, and rape on college campuses may serve as an additional basis for liability of higher educational institutions.
The Boys Scouts of America (BSA) is one of the largest youth organizations in the country with almost 110 million Americans participating in its programs. The BSA has been linked to claims of sexual abuse by its members for decades. Recent reports reveal that, from 1944 to 2016, the BSA fostered sexual abuse by 7,819 suspected abusers against a staggering 12,254 child victims. Many of the lawsuits filed by former BSA members allege that BSA officials failed to take reasonable steps to protect scouts from foreseeable dangers of sexual abuse. Scout leaders were often encouraged to resign quietly or were simply moved by the organization to different locations. New laws extending the statute of limitations in many states are expected to result in hundreds of additional lawsuits against the BSA by adults who were sexually abused as children.
Coaches play an instrumental role in the lives of young children in organized sports. The nature of the athlete-coach relationship often places children in situations where they come in frequent close contact with coaches, often while no other adults are present. If a youth sports organization fails to maintain the safety and well-being of athletes, both the coach and the organization may be held liable. In many cases, coaches and teachers with a history of sexual misconduct are quietly removed from their jobs by employers, who fear liability, and go on to accept other positions working with children where new employers are unaware of their history of misconduct. In this way, perpetrators continue to prey on new victims.
Parents who rely on daycare and aftercare facilities assume that their children are safe while under the supervision of trustworthy adults. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Young children who are sexually abused in daycare and aftercare facilities may be unaware of the crimes being committed against them or lack the verbal skills to seek help from parents and other adults. When aftercare and daycare operators and supervisors breach their most fundamental duty to ensure the well-being of children, they can be held liable for faulty hiring and retention, and failing to take steps to stop and/or report the abuse.
Allegations of sexual abuse by a health care worker against a comatose woman in a long-term care facility in Arizona brought national attention to the dangers of sexual assault in residential care homes. Sexual abuse by health care workers in long-term care facilities, group homes or private homes can be especially egregious given the vulnerable state of residents in such settings. Many of them are elderly or have significant mental or physical impairments which enable abusers to commit assaults without others being aware of the abuse. The operators of the group home or the company that hires home health workers are responsible for employing policies that ensure the safety of their residents and clients.
Sexual abuse has been reported by hundreds of campers in all types of summer camps over the past few decades. Children can be vulnerable when they are in sleepaway camps away from their parents and removed from their daily routines. Moreover, summer camps are not subject to regulations that ensure camper safety. Not all states have licensing requirements for sleepover camps and 18 states do not even require that camps conduct background checks. Predators may feel especially at liberty to target children in situations with few safety controls. Summer camp owners and supervisors can incur liability for deficient oversight when children are harmed under their care.
Sexual assault by law enforcement against individuals who are apprehended or arrested has occurred with increasing frequency. An investigation on police misconduct in 2015 revealed that an officer is accused of sexual abuse at least every five days- and a large portion of such incidents involve minors. Perpetrators of sexual abuse may use fear and intimidation to coerce their victims. Officers may prey in particular on weak individuals, such as women with a history of misconduct or those who have been abused. If you have been arrested, detained or questioned by police, you have the right to safety and security. Any victim of sexual abuse by an officer while in police custody has the right to seek compensation for his/her mental and physical injuries.
In the wake of revelations about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse of dozens of female actresses, hundreds of victims of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry have felt empowered to tell their stories. Sexual assault in entertainment affects actors, actresses, models, musicians and their employees. Abusive behavior by high-profile celebrities includes anything from inappropriate sexual gestures to rape. Victims have reported cooperating or maintaining their silence out of fear of being blacklisted. Children are especially vulnerable to abuse by entertainment executives since they are often not supervised by parents. Sexual abuse in entertainment is a crime not unlike other sex crimes; the perpetrators, and those who were aware of the abuse and concealed it, can be held liable for their actions.
Almost 200 clients of Massage Envy have filed reports of sexual abuse while receiving massages at the popular massage chain. Poor policies for handling sexual abuse at the massage chain have led some victims to feel inadequately protected. For example, the company does not require franchises to report sexual assaults to local law enforcement and does not maintain a uniform policy for dealing with sexual assault. Each franchise is responsible for its own investigations, thus allowing some perpetrators to remain employed at their jobs. When an employer is aware that a masseuse sexually assaulted customers at a previous job and hires him anyway, he can be found liable for negligent hiring. Some massage parlors even engage in human (sex) trafficking, where they exploit victims to engage in commercial sexual activity. Owners and operators of massage parlors owe a duty of care to employ and monitor staff in a manner that ensures the safety of all customers.
Sexual abuse is an unfortunate reality for a significant portion of children in individual foster care or group homes. Children who are placed in group homes are 28 times more likely to incur sexual abuse than those living in other types of settings. Unfortunately, the circumstances of foster care allow such abuse to go undetected and unreported for long periods of time. Children, many of whom are already traumatized by circumstances in their birth homes, often do not have a trusted adult to rely upon and may feel insecure to reveal abuse to others for fear of retribution or expulsion from their current living situation. Group homes, often operated by state or local governments, may be especially poorly staffed and supervised – conditions that foster sexual abuse of vulnerable children.
The incidence of sexual assault aboard cruise ships and airlines has risen with alarming frequency. Air and sea carriers are obligated to keep passengers safe- this includes hiring individuals with clean records, monitoring their vessels for misconduct, and taking steps to stop and report sexual abuse. The FBI recently found that sexual assault in air travel increased by 66 percent between 2014 and 2017. Similarly, sexual assault is the most frequent crime aboard cruise ships. When sexual assault is committed on planes or ships, the victims may be ignored, advised to stop pursuing the matter, or simply subjected to a biased investigation. Supervisors on ships and planes may not be equipped to handle claims of sexual assault or apprehend the perpetrators while isolated from local law enforcement.
Claims of sexual abuse in the hospitality industry have been brought by both guests at hotels and motels as well as employees who work at these places of business. Hotel guests have alleged breaches of trust and security by hotel employees or other guests that have resulted in sexual attacks. Similarly, housekeepers have claimed that sexual assault by hotel guests has caused them to experience fear while performing their jobs. Several states have enacted laws requiring hotel operators to install panic buttons for housekeeper use when they fear that an assault is imminent. Housekeepers are among a growing group of low wage workers that maintain that large establishments do not have adequate measures in place to prevent or stop sexual harassment and sexual abuse of their employees.
While ride share services provide cheap and accessible transportation, claims of sexual assault by passengers in Uber and Lyft cars have raised concerns about the hiring practices of these services. Lawsuits initiated by victims of sexual assault claim that Uber and Lyft failed to implement adequate safety checks when hiring drivers, including relying on third-party screening services that do not include fingerprint checks. Despite mounting pressures, ride share companies have resisted implementing more thorough background checks. In some cases, passengers have accused ride share companies of allowing drivers with known criminal background checks to continue to work for them. Passengers who have been sexually assaulted may assert claims for assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment.
Many adults and children who have suffered sexual abuse experience long-lasting and profound psychological, emotional, and physical trauma. While no two victims are the same, most individuals experience stress, fear, anxiety, depression and difficulty conducting daily activities following the assault. Other victims might engage in self-mutilation and substance abuse or attempt suicide. Victims of sexual abuse also report social isolation, strained relationships with family, and risk-taking behaviors. Individuals who have been sexually abused as children may experience additional psychological and emotional problems because children often develop negative self-image and blame themselves for abuse. In many cases, sexually abused children have difficulties that last well into adulthood including difficulty forming relationships and issues with intimacy and trust.
Sexual abuse can have a significant impact on the lives of victims for years or decades after the abuse occurs. Victims of sexual abuse who file civil lawsuits can recover monetary damages for a broad range of damages, including physical and emotional pain and suffering, lost wages, and medical and psychiatric expenses. In some cases, victims may be able to recover punitive damages as well. Liability for sexual assault is not limited to the party who committed the assault: Hospitals, churches, universities, youth groups like the BSA, and other institutions may be found liable for negligence. Civil recoveries can be extensive depending on the nature of the abuse. Recent recoveries against Michigan State University, the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America have been some of the largest amounts in the history of sex abuse cases.
Attention: New York and New Jersey Law Provides Additional Time for Sexual Abuse Survivors to Bring Action
New York is now at the forefront of progressive legislation targeting childhood sexual abuse with the passage of the New York Child Victims Act (CVA). The law extends the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits for sexual abuse. By extending the time period for victims to recover for injuries wrought by sexual abuse, the CVA allows survivors to seek justice and compensation when they are prepared and able to tell their stories. Under the CVA, the statute of limitations for filing criminal charges for sexual abuse is 28 years old and the statute of limitations for filing civil claims for sexual abuse is 55 years old. In addition, anyone under the age of 18 who was abused and precluded from filing a claim has a one-year window to file charges regardless of age.
A new law in New Jersey has been passed to enable victims of sexual abuse to pursue civil lawsuits against their perpetrators for crimes committed years earlier. The legislation gives survivors the opportunity to seek compensation for the abuse they suffered even if the statute of limitations has expired. Under the law, victims who were previously barred by the statute of limitations may now file lawsuits for damages against their abusers and the institutions that concealed the abuse for two years. Victims who do not file actions within the “two-year window” may sue their perpetrators until they turn 55 years of age or within seven years of recognizing that they were injured by sexual abuse. In addition, the New Jersey Independent Victim Compensation (IVC) program was established by New Jersey’s five Catholic dioceses to compensate victims for sexual abuse that occurred in Catholic churches and Catholic schools decades ago.
Many victims of sexual violence do not initially report the abuse because they are embarrassed, ashamed or afraid to reveal that they have been abused. By the time they come forward, survivors may no longer be permitted to file lawsuits because the statute of limitations has expired. Several states, in addition to New York and New Jersey, have passed laws to extend the statute of limitations and allow survivors to seek compensation for their injuries many years after the abuse occurred. In California, the State Assembly unanimously passed Assembly Bill 1619 on September 29, 2018, which extends the statute of limitations for sexual abuse survivors from two years to ten years after the last episode of abuse. In Connecticut, survivors have until age the 58 to file a lawsuit for sexual abuse, exploitation, or assault that occurred before the age of 18. In Massachusetts, meanwhile, survivors have until the age of 63 to file suit or, in cases of survivors who did not previously realize they were injured, within 7 years of the date they discovered or reasonably should have discovered their injury. Other states, including North Carolina, are considering legislation that would similarly extend the statute of limitations for sex abuse cases to allow all victims a day in court.
Our lawyers have the experience, resources, and litigation expertise to help sex abuse victims obtain justice and take on the powerful entities that have sheltered abusers. If you or your child have been harmed, please contact us for a free case evaluation by calling 1-800-988-8005 or through the form on this page.