Obtaining justice in a case against a priest, pastor or other church member often involves a civil case. Many victims of priest or pastor sexual abuse believe that a criminal case is the only recourse when in fact, filing a civil claim is another avenue.
Any person who has been intentionally or negligently harmed by another individual or entity can seek justice in the civil courts. A civil case can be filed without regard to a criminal one. In other words, there is no requirement that a criminal complaint be filed or criminal charges pursued. A civil case can succeed without a criminal one.
Defendants in a Priest or Pastor Sex Abuse Lawsuit
In a case where a priest or pastor committed sexual abuse, the victim can file a civil case against all responsible parties. This includes the abuser as well as other individuals and/or entities.
The abuser (defendant) can be held liable in a civil court of law for committing acts of abuse against the victim (plaintiff). Other individuals who failed to report the abuse or covered it up can also be held liable. In addition to the abuser and other individuals, entities like a school, youth organization or church/religious organization may also be held liable.
The Basis of Civil Liability in a Sex Abuse Lawsuit
The basis of liability of the abuser is his or her acts of abuse, or intentional wrongdoing. On the other hand, the basis of liability of other individuals or an entity like a church diocese is usually a negligent act, as opposed to an intentional one.
Liability for an Intentional Act
Proving an intentional act requires proving that the actor intended a specific result. For example, a priest or pastor who sexually abuses a child would be guilty of an intentional act.
Liability for a Negligent Act
Other individuals and entities are generally liable for failing to do something, which leads to further abuse. For instance, a church employee who witnesses a priest sexually abusing a child and fails to report the abuse will probably be liable for failing to report the abuse. An entity like a church diocese or youth organization may be liable for ignoring complaints of abuse, failing to conduct appropriate background checks, and more.
Liability Based on a State’s Mandatory Sex Abuse Reporting Law
In states like Pennsylvania which have mandatory child sex abuse reporting requirements, liability may be based on a person’s failure to file a report. In addition, an entity may be liable for failing to train its employees on the mandatory reporting requirements.
For example, a parochial school may be held liable when it fails to train its employees on the state’s mandatory reporting requirements and that failure is a direct cause of continued sexual abuse by one of its employees.
Related Priest/Pastor Sex Abuse Legal Articles:
- Rights of Victims of Priest/Clergy Child Sex Abuse in Pennsylvania
- What to Expect in Priest/Clergy Sexual Abuse Civil Lawsuits in Pennsylvania or New Jersey
Priest & Church Member Sex Abuse Lawyer
Former sex crimes unit prosecutor, Brian Kent, has devoted his entire career to helping victims of sex abuse find justice. For a free, confidential consultation about a priest/clergy sex abuse case, call Click To Call. Mr. Kent’s law firm has the resources and experience to handle matters outside the Pennsylvania and New Jersey area, and the firm’s sex abuse lawyers can be admitted on a special basis in other states such as New York.
**This website does not provide legal advice. Every case is unique and it is crucial to get a qualified, expert legal opinion prior to making any decisions about your case. See the full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.