Before civil lawsuits for sex assault or abuse get filed in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, there are two very important questions to consider. First, who are the parties? Second, will the goals of the lawsuit be met?
In this article, our Pennsylvania and New Jersey sex abuse victims lawyers discuss the first issue, identifying the defendants.
Parties in a Civil Lawsuit for Sex Assault or Abuse
The first issue when considering whether to file a civil lawsuit is identifying all of the parties, especially the defendants. In a sex abuse or assault lawsuit, such as one involving a teacher sexually assaulting a student or a priest abusing a child, the employer may be held liable as an indirect perpetrator.
This means that the employer is held responsible for doing something indirectly which led to the abuse. In sex assault or abuse cases, particularly where the victim is a child or minor, the chances are quite high that some other party knew about the abuse or at the very least, the potential for it, but failed to take appropriate action.
The reality is that most perpetrators develop a pattern of conduct that begins over the course of months, if not years. It is often the case that a given employer received prior complaints, reports and/or rumors involving the perpetrator. What is done or not done with respect to such complaints often serves as the basis for liability down the road.
Businesses, both profit and nonprofit, will try to sweep an allegation against an employee under the rug. This can lead to subsequent acts of abuse or assault. Other types of wrongful conduct can also lead to subsequent acts of abuse, such as failure to file a report or failure to conduct an investigation.
Whether it’s because of a failure to provide adequate training about reporting abuse or assault or intentional conduct like pressuring a victim to recant, schools, churches and the like are often legally responsible for allowing the abuse/assault to occur. This is in addition to the direct perpetrator, i.e., the actual criminal perpetrator.
It’s important to note that these principles can apply to a previous employer. For example, a pre-school employee sexually abuses a child at Daycare A. The employee got the job at Daycare A after having been fired from Daycare B. Daycare B fired the employee due to repeated allegations of sexually inappropriate contact with children. However, Daycare B gave a glowing written recommendation to Daycare A to avoid any unwanted attention from a criminal prosecution. Daycare B might be held liable to children who were abused at Daycare A. This type of situation, where an employer gives a good recommendation to a perpetrator and former employee, actually has a name, “passing the trash.”
Visit our law library for more info about sex abuse and assault lawsuits. If you’d like to speak to one of our lawyers about a potential lawsuit, please call our office at 215.399.9255.
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