Civil Sex Abuse & Assault Lawsuits in Pennsylvania – Justice Beyond the Criminal Courts


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Victims of sex abuse and sex assault are often surprised to learn that they have legal recourse, beyond the criminal courts and beyond simply going after the individual(s) who committed the act.

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

Justice for Victims of Sex Abuse – Beyond the Criminal Courts

Under tort laws of Pennsylvania, individuals who are harmed by the actions of another may file suit or take the wrongdoer to court. The remedy is usually financial. That’s the way the civil justice system is organized. With a few key exceptions, like family court, the civil justice system awards monetary compensation. Whether it’s a contract dispute or a civil sex abuse case, the plaintiff (injured party) has a right to seek financial compensation for the harm and damages caused by the other party.

In addition, it is important to note that in some instances, the victim in a civil sex abuse case may be able to negotiate additional terms of settlement, ones that effect real change. For instance, in a school sex abuse case involving a teacher, the terms of settlement may require the school to change its reporting policies and procedures.

PA Civil Sex Assault Case Hypothetical

A tenant is raped and beaten at her apartment complex in Philadelphia. The assault is perpetrated by someone who gained entry to the apartment building through a basement door; the door lock was broken and had not been working for quite some time.

Related: Landlord Liability for Negligent Security at Apartment Complexes and Buildings in Pennsylvania and New Jersey

Prior to the assault, the landlord had attempted to fix the broken lock, but failed. The landlord also received prior reports that uninvited individuals were gaining access to the building through the basement door. The landlord failed to take appropriate corrective action:

  • fixing the lock,
  • warning tenants, and
  • beefing up security (installing cameras with warning signs, hiring security guards, etc.).

As a result of the landlord’s negligent actions, the tenant was raped and assaulted. Had the landlord simply fixed the lock, the perpetrator would not have gained access, and the crime simply would not have occurred. Therefore, the landlord is liable for the tenant’s injuries and damages. Under Pennsylvania law, the landlord may be ordered to pay the victim for the following:

  • medical bills,
  • lost wages,
  • other economic losses, and
  • pain and suffering.

In addition, the landlord may be ordered to pay past and future expenses. Also, it is important to note that the landlord is not the only individual who may be sued. If the apartment building is maintained or otherwise managed by another entity, that entity may be held liable, and like the landlord, ordered to pay financial compensation to the victim.

More: Rights of Sexual Abuse Victims in Pennsylvania

Representation by a Former Sex Crimes Unit Prosecutor in PA

Brian Kent is a former prosecutor who now fights for victims’ rights in the civil courts. Mr. Kent is licensed in PA, NJ and IL. With offices throughout PA and NJ, his firm is uniquely positioned to help victims of sex abuse in PA and NJ. Please call for a free case review. Click To Call

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