Connecticut Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

If you were the victim of sexual abuse or assault, either as a child or an adult, you have the right to bring a civil lawsuit against both your abuser and any school, company, or organization that might be liable for the abuse.

In this post, we will take a look at sex abuse lawsuits in Connecticut. We will look at the law in Connecticut relevant to sex abuse cases, such as the statute of limitations.

We will also discuss the potential settlement amount that victims see in these cases. If you have a Connecticut sex abuse lawsuit you may want to bring, contact us today for a free consultation at 800-553-8082.

Connecticut Sex Abuse Lawsuits Update

March 5, 2024: Call for Legislative Reform

In a compelling editorial from the Hartford Courant, there’s a pressing call for the Connecticut legislature to revisit and reform the statute of limitations pertaining to child sexual abuse cases. Highlighting the gravity of the issue, the editorial shares a heart-wrenching account: a man, for the first time, disclosed that a priest sexually abused him at age 11, a secret he kept until his mother’s death to protect her from guilt. Unfortunately, by the time he was ready to seek legal justice against the responsible church, he had surpassed Connecticut’s statute of limitations, which capped his right to file a lawsuit by his 48th birthday, a mere two days before he opened up about his ordeal.

Such stories are far too common, with many survivors confronting insurmountable obstacles like shame, fear, and complex family dynamics that delay disclosure, often until it’s legally too late. Data from Child USA, analyzing Boy Scouts of America victims, reveals the majority of survivors only disclose abuse in their 50s and beyond, well past Connecticut’s limitation age of 48. Despite a 2019 law extension to 51, this only aids those abused after 2019, leaving earlier victims stranded by the outdated cutoff.

The editorial underscores the need for legislative action to eliminate these restrictive timelines, advocating for a system that allows survivors to seek justice on their own terms, acknowledging the profound and lasting impact of trauma. It questions the fairness of a system where mere days can dictate the validity of one’s pursuit of justice, calling for a more empathetic and informed approach to supporting survivors of childhood sexual abuse in Connecticut.

February 21, 2024: – Snap Dismissed from Sex Abuse Lawsuit

A Connecticut state judge, Superior Court Judge Barbara N. Bellis, dismissed a lawsuit against Snap Inc., which accused the social media platform of linking a minor, identified as C.O., to registered sex offenders who subsequently raped and assaulted her. Despite the plaintiffs’ outrage-evoking circumstances, the dismissal on February 16 relied on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects interactive computer service providers from liability for third-party content. C.O.’s parents had filed the suit, alleging negligence and other claims against Snap after C.O. was assaulted at ages 13 and 14 by Reginald Sharp and Eddie Rodriguez, who were both convicted for their crimes.

Snap argued for dismissal, stating that the plaintiffs’ claims were barred by Section 230 since they treated Snap as a publisher or speaker of third-party content. Judge Bellis agreed, noting that Snap’s features like user recommendation algorithms and the lack of age verification do not remove its status as a publisher protected under Section 230.

The judge expressed regret over the statute’s broad scope but affirmed that without legislative changes, the court’s role is limited. The ruling ended the lawsuit, which also involved Meta Platforms Inc. before it was dropped as a defendant. The plaintiffs had contended that their claims were based on Snap’s failures as a publisher and as a product manufacturer, but the court found all claims legally insufficient due to Section 230’s preemption of state laws inconsistent with its protections.

January 4, 2024 – Sex Abuse Lawsuit Against Hotchkiss School

A former student of the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut has initiated a sex abuse class action lawsuit against the boarding school. The lawsuit alleges a systemic failure on the part of the school to safeguard its students from sexual abuse, specifically highlighting the predatory actions of Roy G. Smith, Jr., a former teacher. The allegations suggest a disturbing pattern of abuse that, according to the lawsuit, was effectively ignored or covered up by the school’s administration to protect its reputation rather than its students.

This legal action follows a 2018 report commissioned by Hotchkiss, which exposed widespread sexual abuse by faculty members and a culture of suppressing student reports.

According to the filed complaint, Smith utilized his roles as an English teacher, dorm parent, and unqualified athletic trainer to sexually abuse the plaintiff and, it is alleged, a significant number of other students over decades. The lawsuit details how Smith’s position allowed him unfettered access to vulnerable students, whom he targeted under the guise of medical treatment and academic tutoring.

The suit seeks to represent all male students who were exposed to the risk of sexual violence by Smith, either through sports teams or under the guise of tutoring in his apartment.

October 20, 2023 – Sex Abuse Victims Get $50,000 for Inadvertent Identity Disclosure

On Friday, a Connecticut federal magistrate judge approved a settlement agreement that allocates $50,000 to each of 129 individuals who alleged abuse within a Catholic diocese that has since declared bankruptcy. Additionally, their identities were inadvertently disclosed by Epiq, a legal solutions firm, during the diocese’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. This settlement, confirmed by U.S. Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel, follows allegations against the company for publishing sensitive claimant information online.

The lawsuit was triggered by Epiq’s mishandling of an unredacted document, which briefly exposed claimants’ personal details. So the victims were victimized twice. This breach led to a $6.45 million settlement to compensate the affected individuals, marking a significant development in the legal aftermath of numerous sexual abuse claims linked to the now-closed Academy at Mount Saint John. Despite Epiq’s argument that the exposure was a result of human error and that it caused no tangible harm, it wisely agreed to settle the claims.

What Constitutes Sex Abuse in Connecticut?

The legal definition of sexual abuse or assault in Connecticut is similar to the definition in most other states. According to Connecticut law, any unwanted and deliberate sexual touching or contact can be categorized as sex abuse, with the touch being deemed “sexual” when involving a person’s intimate body parts and for the purpose of sexual gratification.

In practical terms, sexual abuse encompasses almost any type or level of sexual contact from groping to forcible rape. Two crucial elements must be present to meet the criteria for sexual abuse: (1) “sexual” touching and (2) absence of consent.

The first element, physical or sexual touching, requires actual contact of a sexual nature for an act to qualify as sexual abuse or assault; verbal sexual harassment alone does not mee the definition of abuse.

The second element focuses on consent. The absence of consent is the defining factor across all forms of sexual assault, because the lack of consent is the key. Minors, individuals under 18 years old, lack the legal capacity to provide consent. This means that any sexual touching by an adult involving a minor is inherently considered sexual abuse.

Civil Lawsuits for Sex Abuse in Connecticut

Under Connecticut law anyone who has been the victim of sexual abuse or assault (as defined above) has the right to file a civil lawsuit and seek financial compensation. It should be noted that abuse victims can pursue a civil lawsuit regardless of whether they have filed criminal charges, and even if the abuse was never reported or disclosed at the time it occurred.

To initiate a civil lawsuit for sexual abuse, victims simply need to be willing to provide sworn testimony regarding the details of the sexual abuse or assault. This testimony can be reinforced by additional evidence, such as medical records. Testimony from other witnesses who can attest to the factual aspects of the case may also be presented.

While sexual abuse lawsuits are public record, Connecticut’s civil procedure rules permit victims involved in these types of cases to safeguard their identity by filing under an alias. For instance, if a person named Sally Jones files a sexual abuse lawsuit, she can be referred to as “S.J.” or Jane Doe in the legal pleadings.

Holding Third Parties Liable in Sex Abuse Cases

When someone is sexually abused and wants to take legal action, they usually sue the person who abused them. But if that person is dead, in jail, or doesn’t have money, suing them might not help.

Instead, it’s often better to sue other parties, like schools or companies, who might be responsible for the abuse. These defendants can be held accountable if they didn’t do enough to stop the abuse or protect the victim. Plus, they usually have money or insurance to compensate victims.

For example, let’s say Jane was sexually abused by her high school teacher, Bob. Even though Jane didn’t tell anyone about it, the school had received other complaints about Bob’s behavior with students, which they ignored. So, Jane could sue the school for not investigating Bob and keeping her and other students safe from harm.

Connecticut Statute of Limitations for Sex Abuse Lawsuits

Connecticut has one of the more favorable statute of limitation laws for civil lawsuits involving child sexual abuse. Under Connecticut law, victims of childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault or “trafficking” have until their 51st birthday to file a civil lawsuit against parties liable for that sexual abuse. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-577d. The 51st birthday rule applies to case in which the abuse occurred in 2019 or later. However, for sexual abuse that occurred in the past (i.e., prior to 2019) Connecticut law gives victims until their 48th birthday to file a civil lawsuit.

The appellate courts in Connecticut have also clarified that the relatively new laws extending the SOL for child sex abuse claims applied not just to claims against individual abusers, but also to claims against third parties based on negligence). See Doe v. Boy Scouts of Am. Corp., 147 A.3d 104, 126 (Conn. 2016) (holding that § 52-577d applies to actions against perpetrators and actions against third parties).

Settlement Value of Connecticut Sex Abuse Lawsuits

When deciding how much money to settle Connecticut sex abuse lawsuits with third parties, several things are considered. Here are the main factors that drive a sex abuse lawsuit in Connecticut or in any state:

  • Proof: How good the evidence is that supports the victim’s story matters a lot. If there’s strong evidence, like documents or witnesses, it can lead to a bigger settlement because the church or other defendants don’t want to risk losing in court. Keep in mind that great proof in a sex abuse lawsuit in Connecticut can be as simple as credible victim.
  • How Bad the Abuse Was: The severity of the abuse makes a big difference in how much money is settled on. If the abuse was really bad or went on for a long time, the victim might get more money because it caused a lot of emotional and mental pain.
  • Duration of the Abuse: The length of time over which the abuse occurred can also impact the settlement amount. Prolonged periods of abuse may lead to larger settlements due to the extended trauma and its effects on the victim. That said, some of the bigger sex abuse settlements involve a single act of abuse.
  • Damages: The costs the victim had to deal with because of the abuse, like therapy or missed work, play a big part in the settlement amount. Usually, the biggest chunk of money in a settlement amount in a sex abuse claim in Connecticut will be the victim’s pain and suffering. That is what these cases are ultimately about.
  • How Much the Third Party Is Responsible: There are different levels of neglect, right? Sometime you can say the church or school should have done more.  But in many of these sexual assault claims, it is nearly criminal that the church or school turned a blind eye the way that they did. The latter cases will see higher settlement amounts and jury payouts. In some cases, punitive damages may be awarded in addition to compensatory damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish the perpetrator or negligent institution and deter future misconduct, and their inclusion can significantly increase a settlement amount.

Connecticut Sex Abuse Verdicts and Settlements

  • $526,000 Verdict: Plaintiffs were minor females who suffered multiple injuries that included sexual assault by their school bus driver who was employed by the defendant. The plaintiffs contended that the defendant negligently failed to properly hire, train and supervise its employees, failed to provide reasonable supervision to ensure the safety of the minor children entrusted to its care, and failed to prevent the sexual assault of those children. The defendants denied liability, disputed the plaintiffs injuries and contended that no sexual assaults occurred. The verdict was affirmed on appeal and the award included economic damages.
  • $2,075,000 Verdict: The plaintiff alleged that she was forced to engage in inappropriate acts, and endured sexual molestation and nonconsentual sexual intercourse over a period of 8 years, from age 7 to age 15, allegedly perpetrated upon her by defendant (a former boyfriend of her mother). The boyfriend was criminally convicted for the sexual abuse. The boyfriend was the only named defendant so its not entirely clear where the plaintiff actually received money for this verdict.
  • $2,000,000 Settlement: Plaintiff, a 15-year-old male, alleged that he suffered emotional distress after he was sexually molested by a priest at a church operated by the defendant Norwich Diocese where the abuser was the deacon. The plaintiff contended that the defendants failed to properly supervise their priests and failed to obtain a legitimate background check, that they negligently had knowledge of the crimes, and that their negligence was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The defendants denied liability and contended that they had no prior knowledge of the nonparty’s actions until revealed by the plaintiff. The parties agreed to settle for the benefit of the minor child.
  • $609,910 Verdict: The plaintiff claimed to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder after she was sexually assaulted by an employee of defendant Viso Bello Day Spa where she went for a massage. The plaintiff alleged that, during the massage, Harris placed his genitals in her hand until he became erect. The employee was arrested on December 18, 2018, pled guilty to 4th degree sexual assault, and was sentenced to one year in jail.
  • $21,749,041 Verdict: The plaintiff claimed that he was sexually abused by his Rabi at the defendant’s religious school between the ages of 14 and 17. He sued the school alleging that the school knew or should have known that defendant Rabi was sexually assaulting him, but failed to safeguard the keys to its various properties, which provided defendant Rabi with multiple places to commit the assault.
  • $1,000,000 Verdict: The plaintiff, a 13-year-old male, suffered emotional distress due to the sexual assault and abuse by a priest who was an employee of defendant The Hartford Roman Catholic Diocesan Corporation. The plaintiff alleged the defendant knew or should have known in the exercise of reasonable care that the priest had the proclivity to sexually abuse, exploit and assault minor children.

Contact Us About Connecticut Sex Abuse Lawsuits

If you have a sexual abuse lawsuit in Connecticut, contact our sex abuse lawyers today for a free consultation. Call us at 800-553-8082 or contact us online.

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