Civil Sex Abuse & Assault Lawsuits in Pennsylvania – Who are the Parties?


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The Plaintiffs in a Civil Sex Abuse-Assault Case in PA

Depending on the nature of the specific case, the plaintiff in a civil case is usually the individual who was harmed by the conduct. In most civil sex abuse cases, the plaintiff will be the victim. However, in some cases, other parties may be named as the plaintiff, such as:

  • parents of the victim,
  • siblings of the victim, and
  • spouse/children of the victim.

More: What to Know About Getting Justice in Sex Abuse & Assault Cases in PA

The Defendants in a Civil Sex Abuse-Assault Case in PA

The actual defendants in a given case will vary and depend on the facts and circumstances of the case. Both individuals and business entities may be named as defendants in civil sex abuse lawsuits in Pennsylvania. In most civil sex abuse cases, direct actors, i.e., the individual or individuals who perpetrated the act will be named. Indirect actors can also be named as defendants as well. Other individuals and business entities which turned a blind eye, thereby allowing the abuse to occur, can also be named as defendants. Below are two examples of different defendants named in a civil sex abuse lawsuit.

Example 1 – Sexual Abuse at a Daycare

A child is sexually abused by a daycare/preschool employee. The employee has a prior criminal record for unlawful contact with a minor. Due to a typing error, the school administrator made a mistake and conducted the criminal background check on the wrong individual. Instead of conducting the check on “John Smith,” the check was done on “Jack Smith.” Here, the school would be liable for the error in conducting the criminal background check. The child’s case would be filed against the perpetrator as well as the school.

Related: Child Sex Abuse Prevention – Repeated Background Checks of Day Care Center Employees, Teachers, Etc.

Example 2 – Sexual Assault by a Pastor at a Church

A pastor at a church is known to carry on inappropriate relationships with younger congregants, especially teenage girls. Parents complain that the pastor spends time alone with their teenagers. At least one parent has accused the pastor of inappropriately touching a teenager. Church officials do nothing, ignore the complaints, and even continue to allow the pastor to chaperone overnight trips with teenagers. During one of these overnight trips, the pastor sexually assaults one of the attendees, a teenage girl. Here, the church would be liable for failing to take appropriate steps to prevent the pastor from engaging in reasonably anticipated sexual abuse. The teenager’s case would be filed against the pastor and the church.

Related: Why Sex Abuse Within a Church May Not be Reported or Investigated

In addition, it is important to note that government agencies may be named as defendants, in certain situations. Under Pennsylvania tort law, government agencies may be liable for violating federal or state civil rights or may be liable for certain acts under state law.

For instance, under the Pennsylvania Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act or the Sovereign Immunity Act, government agencies may be liable when defects in real property lead to injuries. For example, a county run community center could be liable when a broken window leads to entry by a criminal who sexually assaults a program attendee.

Brian Kent – Former Prosecutor and Now Civil Sex Abuse Lawyer

Brian Kent is passionate about getting justice for victims of sex abuse. As a former sex crimes unit prosecutor, Mr. Kent saw firsthand how victims’ lives are destroyed by sex abuse. Please call for a free case review with Mr. Kent. Click To Call

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