Talking about the big-dollar payouts in child sexual abuse cases by the clergy is not easy, and rightly so. Despite the existence of these court decisions, it’s really not about who gets the most money at the end of the day. I need you to remember one thing as we delve into this topic: the survivors who come forward aren’t doing it to get rich. No, the driving force for these brave souls is their own healing, as well as ensuring the safety of other children who might potentially fall prey to such horrific acts. They stand up to make Catholic officials pay attention, ensure abuse is taken seriously, prevent it from happening, and support those affected by it. That said, highlighting the large settlements and jury awards is crucial because it underscores the severity of the abuse crisis in the clergy. Let’s consider some recent examples that have made headlines:
- “The Catholic Church said an abuse victim deserved $250,000. A jury gave him $3 million.”
- “Illinois religious order to pay $2.9 million to settle sexual abuse claims against former teacher“
- “Archdiocese of St. Louis abuse victim speaks out after settling with church for $1M“
- “Multi-million Catholic Church payout ‘massively important’ for future sexual abuse cases“
While these cases are encouraging, it’s vital to debunk two common assumptions people have that are not always accurate when such high amounts are awarded in verdicts or settlements:
Assumption #1: Older Cases Are a Lost Cause
Ever heard of ‘statutes of limitations’? It’s one of those legalese terms that many people shy away from, but it’s a reality many abuse survivors grapple with. These are rigid deadlines that can often make pursuing legal action seem like a lost cause. However, don’t throw in the towel just yet – the legal field thrives on intricacies and exceptions. Victims’ attorneys and criminal prosecutors are increasingly challenging the validity and scope of these laws, and judges and juries are starting to catch on.
What’s the point, you ask? Justice isn’t a lost cause simply because the abuse happened years ago.Therefore, one should not assume that justice is unattainable simply because the abuse happened years ago. It is crucial for survivors who are even remotely considering seeking compensation, healing, closure, and justice to consult an experienced attorney.
Assumption #2: Big Money Implies Especially Egregious Abuse
Not quite so. While it’s true that defendants in child sex abuse cases are worried about how graphic details presented in court might affect the jury or the judge, settlements don’t always hinge on the horrific nature of the crime. We have seen (and won) numerous significant settlements and verdicts for survivors whose traumatic experiences may not be classified as exceptionally horrific. Nonetheless, the abuse could have been wholly prevented or stopped earlier if responsible leaders had taken appropriate action.
Defendants are often even more fearful of evidence revealing higher-ups’ negligence or cover-up of child sex crimes emerging during litigation. This evidence, obtained from employers’ personnel files, witnesses’ depositions, or other victims coming forward, can have a significant impact. Consequently, some survivors initially downplayed the severity of the abuse and say things like, “It just happened a couple of times,” “There was no penetration,” or “Well, he didn’t tie me up or put a gun to my head,” do end up with substantial jury awards or negotiated settlements. This occurs because lawyers like us uncover compelling evidence that these responsible leaders knew about or suspected the abuse but chose to do nothing or actively conceal it. In many cases, these same leaders or their successors are eager to settle out of court due to the potential backlash from a jury exposed to such damning testimony.
While both of these assumptions can be true in many instances, it is crucial to acknowledge the exceptions that exist and provide hope to abuse victims.
Case Study 1: The Delayed Memory Exception
This case unfolded in Missouri, where a brave man from Chicago recently spoke out about being raped four times by a St. Louis priest during his childhood. He filed a case many years later, thanks to the ‘delayed memory’ or ‘repressed memory’ exceptions in the law. This survivor was able to seek justice decades later because he had involuntarily repressed memories of the crimes. Several states have provisions, often referred to as ‘delayed memory’ or ‘repressed memory’ exceptions, in their laws that allow survivors to pursue legal action. Recognize the importance of competent legal advice here. Laws surrounding child sexual abuse are complex and constantly changing, and that’s why survivors need legal professionals to navigate these murky waters.
Case Study 2: Systematic Failures Lead to Hefty Payouts
This case comes from Australia, where a notorious pedophile priest’s victim was awarded $3.3 million by a jury despite the church arguing that compensation should only be $250,000. Why is this significant? It shows that large settlements often result from systemic systematic failures by supervisors or employers. It is crucial to reserve judgment and avoid assumptions when contemplating legal action. The possibilities and exceptions surrounding such cases are intricate and best evaluated by experts in the field.
Although the prospect of a substantial financial settlement isn’t typically a survivor’s primary motivation, it’s worth noting that such awards can be in reach. More so, hefty financial penalties serve as a massive wake-up call for wrongdoers to reform.
As we journey through this sensitive terrain, remember: Straight roads do not make skillful drivers. You might face perplexing aspects of your case, and just when you think you’ve got the jargon down, you’ll encounter a sudden burst of legalese. But hey, unpredictability is the essence of life, and in this case, it could lead to reform and justice. Keep your chin up! Working with experienced legal professionals can help smooth out the bumps along the way. Remember, you’re not alone in this journey. Stand tall, stand strong. You’re a survivor, and your voice matters!
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and other clergy. If you need a lawyer because a member of a religious organization sexually abused you, contact us today at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.