Whether a school can be held liable in a sexual abuse-assault lawsuit depends on many factors, such as the statute of limitations. In addition, there must be sufficient evidence of negligence.
It is important to note that public and private schools are treated differently in civil sex abuse-assault lawsuits under both federal and state law. Basically, the standard of proof in a school sex abuse lawsuit against a public school in Pennsylvania is higher than the standard of proof in a similar lawsuit against a private school. That’s because of a principle known as sovereign immunity.
Government run entities such as a school district are generally immune from liability under ordinary state tort or negligence laws. However, under federal and state constitutional laws, public schools can be held liable for negligence leading to sex abuse if there is evidence of willful disregard of a student’s safety. Read more about this standard. This standard is much higher than the ordinary negligence standard applied in sex abuse lawsuits against private schools.
Negligence in Sex Abuse Lawsuits Against Private Schools
In Pennsylvania, courts define negligence in two ways. First, negligence can be an affirmative act, or doing something you should not do. Second, negligence can be an omission (the failure to act), or failing to do something you should do.
In the context of civil sex abuse lawsuits, schools are often liable for affirmative acts of negligence or failing to act. An example of an affirmative act of negligence involves a school administrator who actively suppresses a report of sex abuse by a teacher. The administrator tries to sweep the report under the rug. This is an affirmative act of negligence; the school administrator is doing something they should not do.
An example of an omission involves a case where a teacher witnesses sexual abuse of a student by another teacher. However, that teacher does nothing. The act of doing nothing is an omission; the teacher is failing to do something they should do.
In addition, these kinds of cases often boil down to proving what the school’s employees knew and when. Basically, there must be evidence that the school’s employees either knew about the problem beforehand or at the very least, should have known about the problem.
Lawyers for Civil School Sexual Abuse & Assault Cases in PA
If you would like to discuss your rights in a Pennsylvania school assault/sex assault lawsuit, please call our office at Click To Call.
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