Illinois Sexual Abuse Lawsuits and Settlements

Victims of sexual abuse in Illinois can file civil lawsuits and receive significant financial settlements. This post will examine the process and laws related to sex abuse lawsuits in Illinois. We will also review the average settlement value of these cases and provide examples of settlements and verdicts.


UPDATE:

May 2024

Juvenile Detention Center Lawsuit: A new detention center sex abuse lawsuit filed on behalf of 95 former detainees alleges rampant abuse occurred unchecked for decades at Illinois’ juvenile detention centers, citing hundreds of incidents over more than two decades.

The plaintiffs’ lawsuit claims that both male and female staff members perpetrated the abuse. Although the allegations only run through 2017, the suit claims that sexual abuse of children at Illinois juvenile detention facilities continues to this day.

These claims should surprise no one. A 2013 U.S. Department of Justice report that found Illinois had the fourth-highest percentage of detainees reporting staff sexual misconduct. The Joliet Detention Center, which closed in 2013, was particularly egregious, consistently ranking among the facilities with the most sexual abuse. So was the Illinois Y0uth Center – Chicago.

Prison Rape Lawsuit: An inmate, representing himself, has alleged that while housed in Menard’s Medium Security Unit, he endured years of sexual harassment, abuse, and assaults. He specifically claimed that two correctional officers forced him into various sexual acts through threats and manipulation and provided him with gifts and privileges. He also accused prison administrators of creating a sexually hostile environment by placing staff members who were under investigation for sexual misconduct in his unit and subsequently ignoring the abuse.
The prison filed a motion to dismiss.  The court allowed the Eighth Amendment claims against the officers for sexual assault, abuse, and harassment, to proceed but dismissed his Prison Rape Elimination Act claims because that law does not provide a private cause of action for inmates. The Rape Elimination Act should allow for private causes of action. The reality is we all know this kind of stuff can happen in a prison, even in 2024.

New Lawsuits Against Archdiocese of Chicago:  The Archdiocese of Chicago is being sued for its alleged role in failing to prevent the repeated sexual abuse of an altar boy by Rev. John Keehan at St. Ann Elementary School and Parish during the mid-1990s.

Filed in Cook County Circuit Court, the sex abuse lawsuit claims that from 1994 to 1997, Keehan abused the boy and that the archdiocese neglected to adequately supervise the priest, despite his known history of abuse. Keehan, who was removed from public ministry in 2002, was highlighted in a 2023 Illinois attorney general’s report as having committed substantiated child sex abuse.

Importantly, the lawsuit also notes that Keehan was frequently moved between about nine parishes and schools after allegations of sexual misconduct began shortly after his ordination in 1967.  It is not hard to guess why he was being moved.

six individuals have reported abuse by Keehan as minors. The current plaintiff, now 40, alleges suffering from emotional and physical distress and a loss of religious faith due to the abuse. This case is the third such lawsuit filed by former students of St. Ann against the archdiocese related to Keehan’s awfulness.

April 2024

Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Lawsuit: One issue that does not get enough attention is sexual abuse in nursing homes.  A lawsuit was filed in Cook County alleging that a resident with Alzheimer’s suffered sexual assault at a Caseyville nursing home. The complaint, brought by the independent administrator of the estate of the resident, targets Caseyville Nursing & Rehabilitation Center Inc. and SW Financial Services, which provides management services to various skilled nursing facilities across Illinois.

The resident, who was entirely dependent on the staff for daily living assistance, had several medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, which significantly impaired her cognitive and physical capabilities. According to this nursing home sexual assault lawsuit, the resident experienced over 25 falls for over a year-and-a-half and displayed unexplained severe bruising and pain in December 2023, which led to a hospitalization at Memorial Hospital in Belleville.  The hospital staff noted bruising around sensitive areas leading to the conclusion she was sexually abused.

The lawsuit accuses the nursing home of inadequate staffing and failing to adhere to federal guidelines for nurse coverage, which compromised the care and safety of this poor woman. Furthermore, the facility – which is not a highly rated nursing home – reportedly failed to operationalize its abuse policy by not reporting allegations of sexual abuse to local authorities or preventing further potential abuse after such allegations were reported. The suit argues that the nursing home neglected its duty to protect the plaintiff’s health and safety, allowing her to suffer abuse and neglect under its care.

March 2024 

Servite Priests Accused of Child Sex Abuse: Several Catholic priests from the Servite religious order have been accused of child sexual abuse but are not included on the public lists of credibly accused members by the Chicago-area church. Church officials have not provided explanations for this omission. These priests have been implicated in abuse cases, yet their names remain absent from accountability records despite significant allegations against them.

The Order of Friar Servants of Mary, or Servites, headquartered in Chicago, faces scrutiny over its handling of abuse allegations. Despite transparency calls, the Servites have not released a list of members accused of abuse. Why?  The silence is deafening. This lack of disclosure comes amidst ongoing lawsuits and allegations that have surfaced, particularly concerning a priest accused of molesting multiple children in California after his tenure in Chicago.

It is amazing this is still happening in 2024.

February 2024

Township High School District 205 Sex Abuse Lawsuit: A lawsuit filed in Cook County alleges that officials from Lockport Township High School District 205 failed to protect a female student, identified as Jane Doe, from a sexual assault by a male student-athlete with a known history of sexual misconduct.

The lawsuit accuses the District 205 Superintendent, the assistant superintendent, and others of willful and wanton misconduct for allowing the male student to interact with female students without implementing any protective measures, leading to the assault of Jane Doe on December 9, 2022, at Victor J. Andrew High School.

The pretrial discovery process is crucial in school sex abuse lawsuits like this.  They question is who knew what and what type of systems were in place to protect children.

January 2024 

Butler Sex Abuse Litigation:  Volleyball coach Rick Butler and his wife are currently barred from addressing certain issues in state court related to sanctions they received in a federal class action lawsuit until the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals resolves their appeal. The federal case involved accusations of sex abuse fraud against Butler.  Butler won the case before it ever got to trial. But the judge did not address whether the allegations against Butler were true or false. He his club, GLV Inc., were sanctioned for improperly communicating with class members to encourage them to opt out of the lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly issued an order stating that the Butlers cannot litigate allegations of sex abuse fraud in state court to the extent it involves discussing their communications with the federal suit’s class members or the propriety of sanctions over those communications. This restriction remains in place until the Seventh Circuit makes a decision on the Butlers’ appeal to overturn the sanctions.

The sanctions were originally imposed after Judge Kennelly found the Butlers encouraged class members to opt out of a lawsuit accusing Rick Butler of concealing sexual misconduct allegations. The Butlers’ communications with class members and the appropriateness of the sanctions were key points in the federal sanctions order.

December 2023

 Uber Sexual Assault Lawsuits:  The Uber class action lawsuit is in full swing and Illinois will have its fair share of plaintiffs.

October 2023

Blackhawks Sexual Assault Lawsuit: A former Chicago Blackhawks prospect, has filed a lawsuit against the team, alleging negligence and other claims related to the team’s mishandling of sexual assault reports against former coach Brad Aldrich. The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, accuses the Blackhawks management of prioritizing their 2010 Stanley Cup championship run over player welfare, delaying the address of sexual assault allegations against Aldrich and attempting to cover up his misconduct.

The player is suing for negligent hiring, retention, supervision, infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, willful and wanton conduct, and violation of Illinois’ Gender Violence Act.

September 2023

$19 Million Verdict in Sex Abuse Case: An Illinois federal jury has awarded over $19 million to a woman, identified as Jane Doe, who accused her prison counselor, Richard Macleod, of raping and sexually assaulting her for seven months while she served a prison sentence at Logan Correctional Center.

The jury deliberated for just four hours before awarding Jane Doe an $8 million payout in compensatory damages and $11.3 million in punitive damages. These punitive damages include $10 million from Macleod, $800,000 from the head prison investigator, and $500,000 from the warden. How did this end up in federal court?  Her Illinois sex abuse lawsuit alleged that the abuse violated her constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

May 2023 

Illinois Attorney General Releases Report on Sex Abuse By Catholic Clergy: The Illinois Attorney General’s office released an investigation detailing decades of sexual abuse of children committed by priests and religious brothers. The report is the result of an extensive investigation, and it covers several decades. It found credible evidence to support claims that 451 clergy members sexually abused nearly 2,000 children.

What is Sexual Abuse or Assault in Illinois?

Sexual abuse or sexual assault can range from forcible rape to groping. Sexual abuse or assault can be the basis for a civil lawsuit, but the definition of these acts comes the criminal law. Under Illinois law, the crime of “Criminal Sexual Abuse” is defined as follows:

(a) A person commits criminal sexual abuse if that person: (1) commits an act of sexual conduct by the use of force or threat of force; or (2) commits an act of sexual conduct and knows that the victim is unable to understand the nature of the act or is unable to give knowing consent.

729 ILCS § 5/11-1.50.

In the context of civil lawsuits, sexual abuse under this definition is often referred to as sexual battery.

This broad definition encompasses a very wide range of sexual contact or touching. The 2 critical elements that must be present for the touching to constitute sexual battery are (1) sexual conduct, and (2) lack of consent. For sexual battery to occur in Illinois, there must be an act or actions that fit the definition of “sexual conduct,” which means sexual touching intentionally done for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal. Intent is the key here. If someone accidentally touches private parts in a crowded elevator there is no intent and it is not sexual battery.

The second element is a lack of consent. For an intentional sexual touching to constitute sexual battery, the touching must be non-consensual. Anyone under the age of 18 is considered a minor and lacks the capacity to give legal consent to any sexual touching. Therefore, any form of intentional sexual contact with a minor will automatically constitute sexual abuse or battery.

Civil Lawsuits for Sexual Abuse in Illinois

Any victim of sexual abuse or assault has the ability to file a civil lawsuit under Illinois law and seek monetary compensation. Abuse victims can bring a civil lawsuit regardless of whether criminal charges were brought for the abuse. In fact, victims can sue even if they never reported or told anyone about the abuse when it happened.

illinois sex abuse

St. Clement, Chicago, IL

To file a civil lawsuit for sexual abuse, victims simply need to be willing to testify about the abuse under oath. Additional evidence, such as medical records showing physical injuries resulting from the assault, can be used to support the claims. Testimony from other factual witnesses can also be presented.

Holding 3rd Parties Liable in Sex Abuse Lawsuits

The individual person who committed the abuse or assault is always a potential defendant in a civil lawsuit. In many cases, however, that individual probably won’t have enough money to pay a verdict or settlement for the lawsuit or they may already be dead or in jail. Except in rare cases where the abuser is someone rich and famous, suing them will not get you very much.

The succeed in a sex abuse lawsuit plaintiffs need to bring negligence claims against third parties with deep pockets such as schools, churches, or corporations. These third parties can be held liable if the victim can show that they were somehow negligent in preventing the sexual abuse or failing to protect the victim.

Illinois Statute of Limitations in Sex Abuse Lawsuits

A statute of limitations is basically a deadline for filing a civil lawsuit. If the statute of limitations period has expired, the plaintiff will be barred from filing suit. Over the last few years, a growing number of states have enacted new laws extending or completely lifting their statute of limitations for child sex abuse civil lawsuits. So far, however, Illinois has not amended its statute of limitations for civil sex abuse claims.

Civil lawsuits based on sexual abuse in Illinois by a priest or anyone else are still subject to the general 2-year statute of limitations. When the victim is a child when the abuse occurs, the 2-year SOL clock does not begin to run until they turn 18.

So child sex abuse victims have until their 20th birthday to file suit. 735 ILCS 5/13-211.

An appellate court in Illinois recently upheld the dismissal of a sex abuse civil lawsuit in Doe v. Lake Forest High School, alleging that the plaintiff was sexually abused by staff at his high school because failed to file the case before his 20th birthday.

Faith’s Law

In 2021, Illinois passed two notable legislations collectively referred to as Faith’s Law. These laws were initiated to address issues related to sexual misconduct within schools.

The initial legislation, known as Public Act 102-0676, solidified the definition of sexual misconduct under the School Code. This act also mandates schools to formulate and display their employee code of professional conduct policies. A subsequent piece of legislation, Public Act 102-0702, that became effective on July 1, 2023, emphasizes the prevention of “sexual misconduct” as defined in the prior act by staff in various capacities: school employees, substitutes, and contractors.

Key highlights of Faith’s Law include:

  • A clear definition of sexual misconduct, covers intentional or careless acts by school employees, substitutes, or contractors with a sexual implication. This encompasses:
    • Sexual assault
    • Sexual battery
    • Indecent exposure
    • Unlawful restraint
    • Grooming
    • Any other actions deemed as sexual misconduct under federal or state legislation.

The act codifies what you hope schools were doing anyway, requiring them to:

  • Create and display policies surrounding professional conduct, especially highlighting the definition of sexual misconduct.
  • Expect employees to report any suspicions of such misconduct to the administration.
  • Conduct thorough background verifications for all employees and contractors.
  • Impart training on preventing sexual misconduct.
  • Inform parents/guardians and the concerned student about any alleged sexual misconduct.
  • Implement other protocols when dealing with sexual misconduct allegations.

The law honors Faith Colson, a prevention advocate and survivor of child sexual abuse. Having graduated from an Illinois high school in the early 2000s and undergone abuse by a teacher, Faith Colson became a beacon of change. She collaborated with legislators and advocates to bring Faith’s Law into existence, aspiring to shield other children from experiencing such trauma.

How Sex Abuse Lawsuits in Illinois Are Evaluated for Settlement

The settlement value of Illinois sex abuse lawsuits is driven by various factors. These factors help determine the appropriate settlement amount and the likelihood of reaching an agreement between the parties involved.

  • Evidentiary Strength: Cases in which the sex abuse allegations are well supported by strong, reliable external evidence such as medical records or witness testimony will have a higher settlement value because the plaintiff is more likely to win at trial.
  • Nature of the Abuse: The nature and type of sexual abuse in the case have a major impact on settlement value. Sex abuse of a child or sexual assault involving violence or force is going to be worth more compared to abuse that involves an adult victim where consent is contested.
  • 3rd Party Liability Theory: Usually, to have real settlement value there needs to be a viable claim against a third-party defendant like a school, or church. Cases with stronger negligence theories against these third parties will have a higher settlement value.
  • Who Your Lawyer Is: The experience, skill, and reputation of your sex abuse lawyer play a major role in the settlement value of your case. The average settlement for clergy abuse is certainly higher for victims who hire one of the best sex abuse lawyers in Illinois.

Illinois Sex Abuse Verdicts And Settlements

Below are summaries of reported settlements and jury verdicts from prior Illinois sex abuse lawsuits. These verdicts and settlements are helpful as a comparative tool for understanding the potential value of your case. They are not, however, a guarantee of value in your case because the facts and circumstances of each case are highly unique.

  • $19,000,000 Verdict (Federal Court in Chicago 2023): We do not talk enough about sexual abuse inflicted upon prisoners. In this case, a woman courageously came forward with allegations of rape and sexual assault during her seven-month incarceration at Logan Correctional Center in Logan County. It is sometimes hard to get people to believe prisoners. But someone did here.  The jury awarded $19 million in a verdict that offers hope for meaningful reform in the way prisons handle reports of sexual assault.
  • $950,000 Settlement (Kane County 2022): The plaintiff claimed that while she was a kindergarten student at an elementary school operated by defendant East Aurora School District 131, she was allegedly sexually abused by her teacher. According to the plaintiff’s mother, there had been previous allegations of sexual misconduct made by another minor student regarding the teacher, but the school failed to properly investigate the allegations and did nothing to stop the abuse.
  • $3,600,000 Settlement (Cook County): The Roman Catholic Diocese of Chicago settlement claims by 2 victims who alleged that the were sexually assaulted by Catholic clergy members as children and the church ignored and/or covered up the allegations. One victim received $2.1 million and the other received $1.5 million.
  • $500,000 Settlement (N.D. Illinois 2020): The plaintiff claimed that while he was an inmate in the Cook County jail, a Sheriff Deputy working as a guard at the jail forced the plaintiff into a physical sexual relationship that lasted for nine months. The defendant agreed to settle the case for $500k.
  • $380,000 Settlement (N.D. Illinois 2019): Jane Doe, a 26-year-old caucasian female, a former medical student, and a law student at the time of this incident, was housed as an inmate of Cook County Jail when she reportedly suffered sexual assault including digital penetration by a fellow inmate who was incarnated for homicide. The plaintiff alleged that the staff at the jail informed her that due to her ethnicity and ‘look’, she would have a hard time, failed to provide the plaintiff with protection, and housed a minimum security inmate in a maximum security wing.

Sex Abuse By Doctors and Other HealthCare Providers

We have above a link to the Dr. Ortega scandal involving a prominent OB/GYN who sexually assaulted numerous female patients over several years.  But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Our lawyers starting looking at doctor sex abuse lawsuits ten years ago, taking what we thought were these rare instances of medical providers doing something awful and, incredibly, otherwise esteemed hospitals and other medical providers looking the other way.

We were wrong. It is not rare at all.

In February 2024, the Chicago Tribune and other area newspapers wrote articles on the problem. They cited three examples beyond just Ortega:

  • At the Illinois Bone & Joint Institute, an incident occurred where X-ray technician Karol Ruszczyk inappropriately touched a patient’s vaginal area over her clothing under the guise of addressing her hip and groin pain.
  • At Glenbrook Hospital in Glenview, nurse David Giurgiu exploited a heavily medicated, 76-year-old patient by coercing her into performing oral sex.
  • At Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center in Chicago, employee Titus Snelling isolated a patient in an elevator and began to kiss her neck unsolicited.

The common thread present in all of these atrocities?  Despite complaints lodged by the victims, the respective health care facilities failed to take immediate action, allowing these employees to continue working until they were eventually charged for abusing more patients.

People complain there are too many lawsuits in this country. They might be right. But sex abuse lawsuits against hospitals and other medical providers that ignore these predators is one of the few weapons we have to force these healthcare providers to keep these animals in check.

Now, the Illinois State Health Department is pushing a bill aiming to impose financial penalties on hospitals that neglect to report cases of sexual abuse by their staff. Additionally, the bill seeks to extend the obligation of reporting abuse allegations involving healthcare workers to doctors’ offices and satellite clinics, applying the same regulations currently enforced for hospitals.

This would help.  But right now, it is sexual assault lawsuits that are hitting these providers with legal fees and the costs of paying settlement amounts and jury payouts that is pushing providers to take some action.

Hiring an Illinois Sex Abuse Lawyer

If you were the victim of sexual abuse and think that you have a potential claim and you want justice, click here for a free no-obligation consultation or call us today at 800-553-8082.

 

 

 

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