Indiana Sex Abuse Lawsuits

Victims of sexual abuse or sexual assault have the right to file civil lawsuits and get financial compensation. Recent changes in the law are now making it easier for abuse victims to seek justice in the civil courts. This post will discuss how sex abuse victims can file civil lawsuits in Indiana and look at the potential settlement value of these cases.


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Indiana Sex Abuse Lawsuit Updates

March 2024: A proposed bill heading to the governor would empower Indiana parents to take legal action against pornographic websites lacking age verification, potentially awarding up to $5,000 in damages if successful. Senate Bill 17 mandates age verification for “adult-oriented websites” displaying content harmful to minors, including nudity and sexual conduct. Parents could sue sites without proper age checks if their child gains access. The measure, passed with bipartisan support, aims to shield children from inappropriate content. The bill also allows the attorney general and others to sue non-compliant website operators, seeking penalties of up to $250,000. Inspired by similar laws in Louisiana and Texas, the legislation addresses concerns about minors accessing explicit material online. Websites have responded by implementing region-based blocks to comply with state laws.

February 2024: A South Bend Police officer, Rico E. Butler, faces charges of child seduction and made his initial court appearance this past Monday. Butler, who also works part-time at a Mishawaka school as a security officer and basketball coach, is accused of engaging in sexual activities with a 17-year-old student. Child seduction charges apply in Indiana when an adult in a position of trust is involved sexually with a minor at least four years younger who is in their care.

Prosecutors allege that the relationship began in September 2023, with incidents including intercourse in a classroom and Butler purchasing “Plan B” birth control for the student.

August 2023: The parents of a fourth girl accusing her gymnastics coach of molestation have filed a civil suit against the coach, the Zionsville gym, and the coach’s supervisor. Kenneth ‘Andy’ Arnold, previously convicted of child molesting charges, faces new allegations of inappropriate touching and rape. The lawsuit alleges negligence by InterActive Academy and supervisor Kendra Brens for failing to act on prior allegations against Arnold. InterActive Academy reportedly only issued a warning to Arnold without limiting his contact with students or informing authorities. The lawsuit claims multiple failures, including inadequate reporting and investigation of complaints, lack of policies to prevent child abuse, and failure to inform families of risks.

July 2023: Three women’s soccer players at Butler filed a sexual assault lawsuit against multiple defendants, including former trainer Michael Howell and his former boss, Butler senior associate athletic director Ralph Reiff. Allegations of sexual abuse, harassment, intimidation, and stalking paint a grim picture reminiscent of a horror story, echoing past scandals like the one involving Larry Nassar at USA Gymnastics.

April 2023: The Indiana State Senate killed a proposed new law that would have enabled victims of sexual abuse within the Boy Scouts to get full compensation for their claims under the Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy plan. There are currently over 700 alleged sexual abuse victims in Indiana who have made claims for compensation against the Boy Scouts. Due to Indiana’s highly restrictive statute of limitations laws, however, these claimants will only be eligible to receive 10-15% of the compensation that victims in other states will get. The proposed law would have changed that, and opened the door for other child sex abuse victims.

How Does Indiana Define Sex Abuse?

For purposes of a civil lawsuit, sexual abuse and sexual assault have the same definition in Indiana as they do in the criminal law context. Under Indiana law, sexual abuse is defined as intentional sexual contact or touching (either directly or through clothing) of the intimate parts of another person for the express purpose of gratifying the abuser or degrading the victim. This definition covers everything from forcible rape to groping.

The hallmark that defines all types and categories of sexual abuse or assault is the lack of consent. In the absence of consent, any form of sexual contact is actionable as sexual abuse or assault. Minors (under the age of 18) lack the legal capacity to give consent to sexual contact. Therefore, any intentional sexual contact by an adult with a minor is necessarily considered sexual abuse.

Getting Money in Indiana Sex Abuse Lawsuits

The primary and most direct defendant in a sex abuse civil lawsuit is always the person who committed the abuse. The problem is that in most cases suing the individual abuser won’t get you anything because they won’t have money to pay any verdict or settlement (unless the individual is someone very wealthy like Harvey Weinstein or Donald Trump).

The best way to get money in a civil lawsuit for sexual abuse is to sue a third party for negligence in connection with the abuse. Common examples of third parties who can be sued in sex abuse lawsuits include schools, youth organizations (e.g., Boy Scouts), gyms, etc. These parties can be held liable in a civil case if the plaintiff can show that they their negligence somehow enabled the abuse to occur or to continue. Third parties in sex abuse lawsuits can also be held liable if they attempted to cover up abuse incidents after the fact.

Let’s consider a very typical example of how third parties can be held liable for sex abuse. Let’s say that a guard at a juvenile detention facility is sexually abusing inmates. Several of these victims file complaints, but the facility basically ignores them and allows the guard to continue his abuse. The victim can file a civil lawsuit against the detention facility (or the state agency that operates it) for negligently failing to investigate and protect them from abuse. Another example would be if a teacher at a school sexually abuses a student. The student could sue the school for negligent hiring and retention.

Statute of Limitations for Sex Abuse Lawsuits in Indiana

The statute of limitations for filing a sex abuse lawsuit in Indiana is significantly different depending on whether the victim of the sexual abuse is a child (under age 18) or an adult when the abuse occurs.

If the abuse victim is an adult at the time the sexual battery takes place, then Indiana’s general 2-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims applies. This means the victim must file their lawsuit within 2-years of when the abuse occurred. Ind. Code § 34-11-2-4.

If the victim is under the age of 18 when the act of sexual abuse occurred, then they have 7 years from the date the “cause of action accrues;” or 4 years after the victim stops being a “dependent” of the alleged abuser. The cause of action does not “accrue” until the victim turns 18, so they have until their 25th birthday. Indiana does recognize the discovery rule, however, the appellate courts have interpreted it very narrowly in the context of sexual abuse cases.

Indiana Sex Abuse Settlements and Verdicts

$65,000 Verdict: A 13-year-old female suffered emotional distress when she was molested by the male defendant. The plaintiff contended that the defendant lured her into his barn and then engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior without the plaintiff’s consent. There was no indication of a third party institutional defendant in this case.

$225,000 Settlement: An 11-year-old boy was sexually abused by volunteer coach on his little league baseball team. He sued the little association alleging that it was negligent and failed to properly screen volunteers or prevent the volunteers from being left alone with the players in a state of undress. He also claimed the league failed to adhere to national league information as to how to protect children from molesters and failed to formulate a procedure for parents to report suspicions about volunteers.

$250,000 Settlement: The female plaintiff filed a lawsuit against her biological father alleging that he sexually abused her on a regular basis beginning when she was 6 years old and continuing over many years. The case was settled before trial so the father must have had significant financial resources.

$199,000 Settlement: The Archdiocese of Indianapolis agreed to pay $199,000 to settle claims by a man who asserted that he was sexually abused by member of the clergy at St. Catherine Catholic Church on the city’s Southside in the late 1970s. The man claimed that some of the abuse took place during overnight camping trips.

Contact Us About Indiana Sex Abuse Lawsuits

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


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