Sexual Misconduct and Abuse Litigation

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Sexual Misconduct And Abuse Cases

Sadly, many people suffer in silence because of sexual or physical abuse by people in institutional organizations when they were children and teens or as helpless elderly. Those involved in the misconduct could be in high positions of authority, doctors, nurses, administrators, religious educators, youth ministers, those involved in music programs, volunteers, and employees.

If your law firm seeks opportunities to hold corrupt organizations accountable for the harm they inflicted, ZeroRisk Cases® is the lead generation partner that can help you reach your goal.

Cases of Sexual Misconduct by Churches

Religious institutions of all kinds are implicated in thousands of accusations of institutional sexual misconduct and abuse. Some of these cases go back decades while others are relatively new. They all share in common sexual trauma intentionally inflicted on children and teens while church hierarchy looked the other way.

Not Just a Catholic Problem

As of 2018, lawsuits by abuse victims have resulted in settlements by Catholic dioceses and religious orders of about $3 billion, reports NPR. Though money won’t compensate victims for their suffering, it’s a way to hold a church accountable for its negligence and the intentional acts that allowed abuse to happen and abusers to go unpunished.

Hundreds of people have accused those involved in independent, fundamental Baptist churches of sexual misconduct, according to reports in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 2018, according to Christianity Today. Reporters found 412 allegations of abuse across nearly 200 churches and institutions from coast to coast. They uncovered 168 church employees and those in a range of positions who faced abuse accusations concerning incidents from the 1970s to today.

More than 130 have been found guilty of rape, kidnapping, sexual assault, and other crimes. Most victims were children and teens. Many abusers victimized multiple children. One raped 11 girls in his congregation. Several abused children as young as seven years old.

Newsweek in 2016 reported on numerous sexual abuse cases in Orthodox Jewish schools, camps, and institutions. North American Muslims have also risen up in an unprecedented movement to confront sexual and spiritual abuse perpetrated by Muslims in religious organizations, according to the Religion News Service.

A 2019 survey by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding found that 8% of American Muslims say they know someone who experienced unwanted sexual advances from faith leaders, which is about the same share as the general public and other major faith groups.

Sexual Misconduct And Abuse At Nursing Homes

Sexual predators take advantage of those who are vulnerable. Men and women physically and mentally open to abuse fill nursing homes. Management is obliged to keep them safe but they often fail to do so. Nursing home abuse of all kinds is common, but sexual abuse can inflict physical and emotional harm that can cripple someone for the rest of their life. If your firm is interested in holding nursing homes accountable for sexual misconduct, we can help.

Rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, and molestation are only limited by the sick imagination of the perpetrator. It can involve forcing residents to undress in front of the abuser, or forcing them to watch others engaging in sex. The elderly may be shown pornography or forced to touch the abuser sexually. The abuser could be a staff member, a visitor, or another resident.

A Living Nightmare for Victims and Their Families

Many things can go wrong and lead to sexual misconduct at a nursing home:

  • Management may not have sufficiently screened job applicants before hiring them, allowing a predator to join their staff
  • The nursing home may not properly supervise staff, allowing them the freedom to abuse residents
  • Complaints of sexual abuse may be ignored, not fully investigated, or findings are not acted upon. Abuse reports that should have gone to government regulators may have been covered up
  • If residents or visitors are the perpetrators, there may be insufficient staff to keep residents safe
  • A resident with a record of sexual assaults may remain at the facility when he or she should’ve been removed
  • Inspectors working for regulators may have done a poor job, overlooking or ignoring sexual misconduct at the facility

In addition to the emotional and psychological trauma of sexual abuse, the resident may have suffered injuries due to physical abuse that may have occurred at the same time. The predator may have also threatened retaliation if a report was made, forcing the resident to live their life in fear. Residents could have contracted a sexually transmitted disease because of the abuse.

Negligent Management Should Be Held Accountable

Nursing homes are responsible for the health and safety of their residents. They must hire, train, and supervise their employees. Visitors and other residents can’t be allowed to harm those living in nursing homes. Sexual misconduct complaints must be investigated, victims need to be safe, and actions against perpetrators need to be taken.

Negligence or intentional acts by management can result in liability. Damages can include compensation for medical treatment, psychological therapy, the costs of future treatment, pain, suffering, and emotional distress. If this is a repeated problem that’s never properly addressed or management’s acts are egregious, punitive damages may be available.

A Nursing Home Case May Have High Settlement Value

These cases can shock the conscience, and depending on the circumstances, settle for or get verdicts of  very high amounts. A Pennsylvania nursing home, Maple Farm Nursing Center, and its insurer agreed in 2018 to pay $6.75 million to the family of an 86-year-old woman with dementia who was sexually assaulted by another resident, reports Penn Live.

After a trial, a jury awarded the family $7.5 million. The nursing home and its insurance carrier, instead of appealing, agreed to settle. Also named as a defendant was Glenn Hershey, who was convicted for sexually assaulting the woman in 2013. The lawsuit claimed the facility failed to keep Hershey, a registered sex offender, away from the victim.

Sexual Misconduct And Abuse In Sports

What’s more American than participating in organized sports? Parents sign their kids up for any number of sports. Maybe they want them out of the house and have fun with other kids. Some parents might hope it will pay off with a college scholarship.

No parent wants their child or teen to be sexually abused. But for too many of them, organized sports meant being victimized by a pedophile. The organization may or may not have known about the crimes being committed, but they had an obligation to keep their kids safe. It’s an obligation that’s often violated.

Lawsuits Bring to Light Child Abusers

The examples are practically everywhere in any number of sports.

  • A former Little League baseball coach plead guilty in Fayette County Circuit Court in West Virginia in 2016 to two counts of Sexual Abuse by a Parent, Guardian, Custodian or Person in a Position of Trust in Relation to a Minor Child, two counts of Soliciting a Minor via a Computer and two counts of Possession, Distribution or Display of Child Pornography. Twenty-six-year-old John Hunter Krise, according to the prosecuting attorney, could’ve been charged with hundreds of counts of criminal conduct, according to WSAZ
  • Six women filed lawsuits in 2020 against USA Swimming, its California associations, and three now-banned coaches, claiming USA Swimming failed to protect them from these predatory coaches. Three plaintiffs were named, and three were anonymous, in the cases filed in two state courts, reports USAToday. They allege the defendants knew of sex abuse going on but refused to address it. As a result, they created a culture of abuse that subjected dozens of underage swimmers to sexual abuse and harassment. One plaintiff states her coach abused her from ages 11 to 16 in the early 1980s and she has suffered from depression for years as a result

Some Cases Settle for Seven Figure Sums

These types of cases could involve major settlements.

  • An Olympia, Washington, youth soccer club settled for $1.5 million a lawsuit by a former player who says a coach sexually abused her. Brittany Wentz stated it lasted for the five years she was a Black Hills Football Club member, starting when she was 13 years old. Brittany said she and her coach, David Cross, had a sexual relationship when she was 17, reports KIRO
  • As part of its bankruptcy filing, USA Gymnastics offered in 2020 to pay $215 million to more than 500 plaintiffs who claim they were sexually abused by Larry Nassar, a physician employed by the organization, according to the Washington Post. Michigan State University, who also employed Nassar, settled 332 claims involving him for $500 million in 2018

Sexual Misconduct and Abuse in Schools

Schools, colleges, universities, and other institutions of high learning have a duty to protect their students. An employee or fellow student may inflict the sexual abuse. This type of misconduct happens every day in small-town elementary schools and world-famous universities. If helping sexual abuse victims is something your firm does or wants to do, we can help.

Students Rely on Schools to Keep Them Safe

The Associated Press (AP), after a year-long investigation, found about 17,000 official reports of sexual  assaults of kindergarten through high school students by other students from fall 2011 to spring 2015. This is just a fraction of the whole problem because these attacks are greatly under-reported. Some academic estimates are much higher.

The data shows sexual assaults by peers are much more common than those by teachers. For every adult-on-child sexual attack reported, there were seven by students. The AP states the number peak during middle school.

High school students face sexual misconduct by other students as well as that by teachers, administrators, and employees. Students may be assaulted by others or be victims of rape by school employees and volunteers. Victims also face retaliation to keep them quiet or to punish them for speaking up. When schools are put on notice of misconduct, they have an obligation to act. They must do a sufficient investigation and take corrective steps.

Information published by colleges and universities from 2015 to 2018 shows that for the biggest college campuses per state, 14 had a higher rate of sexual assault per 1,000 students than of their state as a whole, according to Forensic News. This could be the result of failures by institutions to protect students, fully investigate assault claims, or hold those who committed assaults fully accountable.

Examples of the problem are part of a federal lawsuit filed in Michigan. Seven women, including four who attended the University of Nebraska, accused the NCAA of failing to protect them from alleged sexual assaults by male student-athletes, reports the Omaha World Herald. Two stated they were raped and groped by two football players in 2018. One filed a complaint with the university. She claims it didn’t investigate until more than a year later, after the two were charged with sexual assault by local law enforcement.

College students can also become victimized by employees and professors, who take advantage of their positions to start and or maintain sexual relations with students. Many universities don’t have policies prohibiting these relationships between faculty and students.

Sexual Misconduct And Abuse In Healthcare

Millions of Americans work in healthcare. It’s the largest private employer sector in the economy. Most employees are highly educated, skilled, motivated people. There are also sexual predators working in the industry.

The fact many patients are vulnerable to sexual assault (physically, emotionally, and psychologically) may attract them to the field. Anyone with patient contact could abuse their position and commit sexual misconduct. If your law firm is interested in protecting the rights of victims who were abused in medical treatment centers, we can provide you the clients you seek.

Medical treatment centers can be anything from your local doctor’s office, urgent care centers, group practices, outpatient surgery facilities, or substance abuse rehabilitation clinics. In all of these places, predators are at work and patients may be there every day of the week, all of them potential targets.

Physicians Found to Have Sexually Assaulted Patients Continue to Practice

Some may be shocked at the behavior of some doctors, people society normally holds in high esteem. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published several articles about how our medical system shields doctors who sexually abuse their patients. According to one article,

  • Ashok Alur, a physician in Kentucky, examined an infection on a female patient’s abdomen when he told her she wore sexy underwear. He rubbed her and put his mouth on her genitals. She pushed him away and went to the police. “It was so beautiful,” the doctor later told his victim. “I couldn’t resist.”
  • In Missouri, Dr. Milton Eichmann treated a woman badly injured in a sexual assault when he asked her if she liked bondage, whether she was easily aroused, and if she liked to be urinated on. He also told her he was getting aroused
  • A California patient was leaving the office of Dr. Mandeep Behniwal, a psychiatrist, when he put his hand down her blouse, grabbed her breast, took it out of her bra, and put it on his mouth. He exposed himself and ejaculated on her hand
  • Twana Sparks of New Mexico for years performed genital exams on patients. They were under anesthesia, hadn’t given their consent, and she saw them for ear, nose, and throat issues
  • Philip Leonard of Texas groped his patients’ breasts or pressed his erections against them during exams, according to reports by 17 women
  • A patient who saw Dr. Jacob Ward in Georgia for a back rash and facial redness claimed he exposed himself, fondled her breasts, and pushed his hands down her pants

In these cases, which were available in public records, doctors acknowledged what they had done, or, after an investigation, officials believed the accusations. All of these doctors were allowed to continue practice medicine and see patients. The same is true of hundreds of other doctors guilty of sexual misconduct across the US.

Sexual Abuse at Day Care Centers

The sexual abuse of children occurs wherever there are children. Day care centers are full of them. These businesses and nonprofits could belong to nationwide chains or be “Mom and Pop” operations in someone’s home. They could exist for the purpose of committing sexual misconduct by a pedophile owner. Day care centers could also be low budget operations where employees and management are too overwhelmed with kids to pay attention to possible abuse.

The Case You May Expect

The classic case could be of John Ernst Tennant, Jr. He’s the 70-year-old owner of a north Florida childcare center. He faces charges of sexual battery because one out of about 5,000 child pornography images found at his home was that of a girl Tennant cared for years earlier. His wife told investigators the image of the toddler in the playpen with a man abusing her was in their care in the past, reports the Associated Press.

Tennant was arrested and charged in 2020 with 12 counts of child pornography possession. The couple ran a day care center from their home from 1985 to 2016. Police searched Tennants’ home after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children told them a Facebook account linked to him had uploaded and shared child porn.

The Cases That Might Be More Common

What may happen more often is the situation described by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It reported more than 65 children were sexually abused in Minnesota childcare facilities from 2007 to 2012 by other children or sons of owners, not adults. The information came from state licensing records and law enforcement reports.

Examples include:

  • A providers’ teenage son was charged with repeatedly sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl who napped in his room
  • A day care operator was reprimanded by state officials because she failed to supervise a 13-year-old accused of exposing himself to a 4-year-old
  • A day care provider lost her because her 15-year-old son was accused of sexually assaulting a preschool girl in her care

The cases show a pattern of risks in day care provided in homes where failures in judgment and supervision put children in danger, including preventable sexual misconduct committed by other children and the owners’ family members.

Day Care Sexual Misconduct Cases May Have High Settlement Values Due to Deep Pocketed Defendants

A Washington case shows that not only can these cases be resolved by substantial settlement agreements, but defendants can go beyond those directly involved. They can include government agencies charged with negligently licensing and supervising day care centers.

The Washington Department of Early Learning in 2017 agreed to pay four families $1.87 million to settle a lawsuit they filed after the son of the day care center’s owner was convicted of sexually abusing three children enrolled there. The state was accused of failing to investigate the day care provider before it opened, according to KING. The son was accused of molesting children at three Idaho day care centers she previously owned.

Sexual Misconduct And Abuse At Hospitals

Hospitals are supposed to places of refuge and healing. Whether a patient is there because of an illness or injury, they should be safe and focus on recovery. Employees should also feel safe so they can perform their most important task, caring for patients. The reality is some hospitals aren’t safe for patients or employees. Because vulnerable people are there, sexual predators will seek them out. Hospital management may be indifferent to the problem or mishandle sexual misconduct when it occurs.

If a hospital doctor sexually assaults someone, there are serious liability issues management needs to face. Employers are only responsible for employees’ acts while they’re working within the scope of their jobs. But if hospital management failed to screen employees before they’re hired, or didn’t act to protect people after they had notice that an employee’s a sexual predator, a hospital can be in major legal trouble.

How hard did the hospital try to learn about this person, what did the hospital know, when did they know it, and what did they do about it? How foreseeable was the assault? If a prior employer knew of sexual assaults, was contacted by his future employer, but didn’t notify it of his misconduct, there may be liability there as well.

Patients could also be sexually assaulted by other patients, hospital volunteers, and visitors. They may be heavily sedated, unconscious, not aware of what’s going on, or physically unable to defend themselves. Employees could also be victimized by sexual assault. Hospitals are often large buildings with many sections and rooms where employees could be assaulted out of sight.

What makes a terrible situation worse is a hospital management’s negligence in protecting potential victims. Security isn’t taken seriously, complaints aren’t investigated, and institutions don’t want to accept responsibility for mistakes – especially given the bad publicity it could cause.

Sexual Abuse is an Everyday Occurrence in US Hospitals

Depending on the facts, these cases can have very high settlement value.

  • More than 8,000 former patients of Dr. Nikita Levy, a gynecologist affiliated with Johns Hopkins Hospital, were plaintiffs in a case that settled for $190 million in 2016. Baltimore police found more than 1,300 videos and images of Levy’s patients during pelvic exams, reports the Baltimore Sun. Former patients later sued.
  • Bertha Solorio went to Saint Agnes Medical Center in Fresno for surgery for abdominal pain after having her gallbladder removed. She woke up from the anesthesia and found a male nurse rubbing her foot and hand between his legs. Solorio said she was powerless and scared. The nurse was fired after the hospital learned of the allegations. Solorio filed a lawsuit that settled for $650,000 in 2019, according to KFSN.

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