Colorado Sex Abuse Lawsuits

This post will explain the basics of Colorado sexual abuse lawsuits. We examine how Colorado law defines sexual abuse and assault and when victims of sex abuse can file civil lawsuits and get compensation. We will also analyze the potential settlement value of sex abuse lawsuits in Colorado.

Finally, we will discuss recent efforts by the Colorado state legislature to pass new laws making it easier for victims of child sexual abuse to file lawsuits years after the fact.


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Colorado Sex Abuse News and Updates:

April 2024:  In an impassioned editorial, Jill Brogdon, a survivor of sex trafficking and child sexual abuse, advocates for the passage of Senate Concurrent Resolution 1 (SCR 1) in Colorado. This resolution seeks to eliminate the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits brought against perpetrators of child sexual abuse. Drawing from her own harrowing experiences of abuse by a teacher in the Denver Public Schools during the 1970s, Brogdon emphasizes the lifelong trauma survivors endure and the obstacles they face in seeking justice.

Brogdon criticizes the current legal system that, in her view, has historically protected abusers by imposing time constraints that prevent survivors from filing lawsuits. She points out the discrepancy between survivors’ need for justice and the legal system’s failure to provide it, highlighting a recent disappointment when Colorado’s Supreme Court overturned a law allowing victims a three-year window to sue their abusers.

The editorial outlines the proposed constitutional amendment that would allow survivors to pursue legal action regardless of when the abuse occurred. It challenges the arguments of some legislators who fear the resolution would lead to business closures and an overwhelmed court system. Brogdon counters these claims with evidence from other states where similar laws have been enacted without such consequences.

By sharing her story and advocating for SCR 1, Brogdon calls for a systemic change that shifts the burden of proof to the institutions that have been complicit in abuse. She argues that the amendment is not just about retribution but about creating a legal framework that acknowledges and addresses the trauma of survivors, offering them a path to closure and systemic reform.

January 2024: A group of Colorado legislators are formally proposing an amendment to the state constitution in order to circumvent a ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court last year which struck down the Colorado Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act of 2021 (the “CSAAA”). The CSAAA would have enabled victims of child sex abuse that occurred decades ago to file civil lawsuits without any statute of limitations restrictions. Last summer, however, the state’s high court invalidated the law on the grounds that it violated the state constitution. Now the legislature is considering the possibility of amending the state constitution to allow new retroactive laws to be enacted when they involve child sexual abuse claims.

September 2023: The Colorado legislature is debating the idea of amending the state constitution to allow a child sex abuse revival law to be passed. The amendment would directly address the ruling by the state Supreme Court striking down a law passed in 2021 that would have allowed child sex abuse victims to sue for abuse that occurred years in the past.

June 2023: The Colorado Supreme Court struck down a new law  passed by the legislature that allowed victims of child sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits for incidents of abuse dating back as far as the 1960s. The state’s high court ruled that the law (the Colorado Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act of 2021) violated the state constitution which strictly prohibits legislation that applies retroactively in a way that impacts certain property rights.


Definition of Sexual Abuse in Colorado

In Colorado, sexual assault or sexual abuse is defined as sexual touching or contact without the other person’s consent and for the purpose of sexual gratification. In the context of a civil lawsuit, sexual abuse or assault is often referred to as sexual battery. Under this definition, a wide range of acts (from groping a breast to violent rape) meets the definition of sex abuse.

There are two key elements that must be present to meet the definition of sexual abuse in Colorado. First, the contact or touching must intentionally done for the purpose of sexual gratification. Grabbing a woman’s breast in a crowded elevator or to catch her from falling is not sexual abuse because there is no sexual intent behind the contact (and in the case of the crowded elevator the contact may actually be inadvertent entirely).

The second essential element is the lack of consent. For intentional sexual touching to qualify as abuse or assault, it must be done without mutual consent. Under Colorado law, minors under the age of 18 cannot give consent to sexual touching. Any sexual contact with a minor by an adult is automatically considered sexual battery.

So even if a 16 year-old fully consents and enthusiastically participates in sexual activities with a 25-year-old, those activities meet the definition of sexual abuse because that 16-year-old lacks the legal capacity to give that consent.

When Can Victims of Abuse File Lawsuits?

In Colorado, sexual abuse or assault is both a crime and a civil wrong or “tort” (the tort version is sometimes referred to as “sexual battery”). This means sexual abuse victims can pursue criminal charges and/or file a civil lawsuit to seek financial compensation. Any individual who has suffered from sexual abuse or assault has the right to pursue either or both options, although prosecuting the criminal charges is not necessarily within their control.

Victims of sexual abuse can pursue a civil lawsuit regardless of whether the individual who committed the abuse was ever criminally charged or convicted. In fact, victims can bring a civil lawsuit even if they never reported the abuse to the police and even if they never told anyone about it.

The burden of proof required to establish sexual battery in a civil case is notably lighter compared to that in a criminal trial. This means that it is much easier for a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit to demonstrate the occurrence of sexual abuse or assault. So even if an offender evades criminal prosecution, they can still be held liable in a civil court of law.

Colorado Statute of Limitations for Sex Abuse Lawsuits

Over the last few years lawmakers in Colorado have been battling to change existing laws to allow victims of child sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits even years after the abuse occurred. In 2021, the state legislature passed a new law that created a 3 year “look back” window allowing child sex abuse victims to file civil lawsuits for abuse dating back as early as the 1960s.

The Colorado Supreme Court struck that law down, however, on the grounds that it violated the state constitution. In response, lawmakers in Colorado are now considering a state constitutional amendment aimed at enabling survivors of childhood sexual assault to sue for older claims faces unfortunate opposition, complicating its advancement in the Senate. This amendment would essentially circumvent the ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court declaring the lookback law unconstitutional.

The proposed constitutional amendment would allow retrospective legislation for cases involving child predators.  Although difficult to accomplish, this amendment to Colorado’s constitution would enable lawmakers to give victims who often disclose their abuse decades later, to seek justice against perpetrators and the institutions that enabled the abuse.

However, achieving the necessary two-thirds legislative support is challenging, especially in the Senate, where Democrats lack the requisite supermajority. Generously, we can say opposition stems from concerns about the potential financial impact on public and private institutions for acts committed in the distant past that could lead to unfair financial burdens on organizations for the misdeeds of past leaders. Cynics would say that lobbyist money has changed too many votes.

No SOL For Child Sex Abuse Occurring 2022 or Later

Although the Colorado Supreme Court struck down the part of the 2021 law that created a lookback period for past claims, the Court upheld the part of the law that completely lifted the statute of limitations for child sex abuse lawsuits based on abuse occurring after January 1, 2022.

Holding Organizations and Institutions Liable in Colorado Sex Abuse Lawsuits

In a sex abuse lawsuit, the individual who committed the sexual abuse or assault will always have direct liability and can be named as a defendant. The only problem with suing the abuser is that unless they are rich they probably don’t have the financial resources to pay a big settlement or verdict. For that reason alone, suing the individual abuser is often a pointless endeavor.

The way to get compensation in a sex abuse lawsuit is to sue a third-party organization like a school, church, or company. Schools, churches and other institutional third-parties can be held liable in sex abuse lawsuits based on negligence. If the third-party negligently failed to prevent the abuse (or covered it up) then they can be held liable. Below are some common examples of the types of negligence claims that can be asserted against third-party defendants in sex abuse cases:

  • Failing to screen employees for sexual abuse history.
  • Failing to investigate complaints about sexual misconduct by an employee and take appropriate action.
  • Concealing or ignoring evidence of sexual misconduct by employees.

Colorado Sex Abuse Settlements and Verdicts

$608,970 Verdict: The plaintiff had been working for the defendant (a veterinarian) at his office and horse farm. At age 15 she had trouble at home and she came to live with the defendant at his house. After she moved in, the defendant got drunk one night and sexually assaulted her, at which point the plaintiff moved out.  The defendant offered to perform the surgery if the plaintiff would work off the charges after school. The defendant divorced his wife, told the plaintiff if she moved back in with him, she would inherit his ranch. The plaintiff and her mother moved in with the defendant, took care of his home and his adult autistic son. When the plaintiff started seeing a boyfriend, the defendant quadrupled the amount of money she owed to him and threatened to put down one of the horses she look care of, starving the horse until she agreed to talk to him.

$1,400,000 Verdict: The plaintiff, a 9-year-old male, suffered sexual abuse and exploitation at the hands of the defendant, a County Court Appointed Special Advocate during a neglect case that resulted in boy being placed outside the home of his parents. It was alleged that the defendant purposefully sought out his position as a volunteer Special Advocate in order to gain access to vulnerable children. Lawsuit was filed against the county for negligent hiring and supervising.

$4,000,000 Settlement: A group of twenty-three former students claimed they endured sexual abuse committed by Brother William Mueller, a teacher and cleric, at a Catholic school in Pueblo, Colo. In nearly all the cases, the molestation was allegedly committed in the school band room after Mueller used chemicals to render the students unconscious.  Each individual claimant received around $172,000 under the settlement.

$210,000 Verdict: A four-year-old male was sexually molested in a restroom at a McDonald’s outside Denver by one of the McDonald’s employees, who was on probation for a similar offense. The worker was mentally retarded and was employed as part of the defendant’s program to provide jobs for persons with disabilities.

$295,000 Verdict: The plaintiff suffered emotional distress, depression and anxiety as a result of sexual molestation she allegedly experienced while attending a child care center operated by the defendant. A janitor employed by the defendant reportedly sat her on his lap, put his hands under her shirt, and rubbed her nipples, breasts and chest on multiple occasions while the plaintiff was between six and nine years old. The lawsuit alleged that the day care was negligent in hiring and supervising the janitor and allowing him access to children.

$4,200,000 Settlement: The plaintiff, an18-year-old female with mental disabilities, alleged that she was sexually assaulted by a 15-year-old male at a school operated by the defendant school district. The minor male was assigned by the defendant district to be the plaintiff’s field trainer and was directed to spend one-on-one time with her and escort her around campus. The plaintiff contended that the defendant failed to provide adequate supervision for the plaintiff, that it negligently allowed minor students to assist in its program for disabled students without proper screening or supervision, that it failed to ensure the safety of the students entrusted to its care, and that its negligence resulted in the sexual abuse of the plaintiff.

$149,000 Settlement: The plaintiff was allegedly sexually assaulted at a Taco Bell restaurant. The sexual assault was committed by a Taco Bell employee. The plaintiff contended that the defendant negligently hired and failed to supervise the third-named defendant.

Contact Us About Colorado Sex Abuse Lawsuits

If you were the victim of sexual abuse and want to file a sex abuse lawsuit in Colorado  contact us today at 800-553-8082.

 

 

 

 

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