Criminal Liability for Sex Abuse of Youths
Under Pennsylvania criminal law, employees of certain youth institutions may be convicted of a third degree felony for having sexual contact with inmates, detainees, patients or residents. Specifically, 18 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Section 3124.2(a) and (a.1), the institutional sexual assault criminal law, applies to the following types of youth institutions:
- correctional authorities,
- development centers,
- forestry camps,
- state or county juvenile detention facilities,
- residential facilities, and
- mental health facilities.
Related: Sexual and Physical Abuse in Pennsylvania or New Jersey Institutions and Hospitals
Civil Liability for Sex Abuse of Youths
Under Pennsylvania civil law, institutions may be held liable for failing to prevent sexual assault and abuse and/or intentionally failing to protect innocent children from known abusers. The theory of liability and claims will vary depending on the type of institution. Under state and federal law, public or government run facilities are generally immune from being sued, except in certain situations.
Pennsylvania Public School Sex Assault Law Update – Federal Court Rules Against Philadelphia Public School [September 2016: Federal court rules for young student who was sexually assaulted after an unknown third party was allowed to remove her from class; lawsuit against school allowed to proceed.]
Sex assault and sex abuse cases which involve government facilities may proceed under two theories: 1. special relationship between the injured individual and the facility or 2. a government-created danger. In general, a special relationship exists between detainees and government facilities on account of the duty of care to those involuntarily committed or otherwise detained.
With respect to a government-created danger theory, there must be evidence of direct actions on the part of government employees and clear evidence of intentional conduct, i.e., government employees intentionally ignored reports of abuse, thereby increasing the risk of harm. It is not enough that an act of sex abuse occurred inside of a government run institution and that others knew about it; instead, there must have been fair warning of the problem, and the government’s intentional lack of action must have led directly to further acts of abuse.
On the other hand, private facilities can be held liable for negligence, which is doing something you shouldn’t do or failing to do something you should do. This applies to private facilities such as non-profit facilities or other private facilities (i.e., privately owned residential center for youths).
More: Can a Pennsylvania school, hospital or institution be held responsible for the sexual abuse of a student or patient?
In a sex abuse or sex assault case, a private facility can be held liable for failing to prevent the abuse or failing to protect the victim in two situations: 1. the facility had knowledge of the problem, or 2. the facility should have known about the problem.
Damages Recoverable in a Civil Sex Assault/Abuse Lawsuit in PA
Under the laws of Pennsylvania, a victim of sexual assault/abuse may be able to obtain financial recovery for the following:
- medical bills,
- psychological treatment bills, and
- pain and suffering damages.
In some instances, the facility may be ordered to pay punitive damages. This is reserved in cases where there is clear evidence that the facility engaged in conduct which showed a conscious disregard for the health and safety of others. For instance, a group home may be ordered to pay punitive damages where it is proven that a known sexually abusive employee was allowed to have unfettered access to young children, and that those in charge falsified the employee’s records to prevent detection.
Help for Victims of Sex Assault/Abuse in Youth Institutions in PA
If you or a loved one was sexually assaulted or abused while at a youth institution, like a youth residential facility, please call firm founder, Brian Kent. Mr. Kent is a former sex crimes unit prosecutor who is dedicated to victims of sex crimes. Click To Call
DISCLAIMER: This website does not create any attorney-client relationship or provide legal advice. It is crucial to speak to a qualified lawyer prior to making any decision about your case. Read full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.
Page last updated: September 14, 2016