Louisiana Sex Abuse Lawsuits

Victims of sexual abuse or sexual assault in Louisiana can file civil lawsuits against their abuser and other third parties, such as schools, churches, etc. Our sex abuse lawyers help victims get financial compensation by filing civil lawsuits against parties who negligently allowed the abuse to occur or failed to prevent it.

In this post, we will look at the process of filing a civil lawsuit for sexual abuse in Louisiana. We will look at the relevant laws regarding sex abuse and the average settlement value of these cases.

Defining Sex Abuse in Louisiana

The legal definition of sexual abuse or assault in Louisiana is similar to the definition in most other states. According to Louisiana 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 meet the definition of abuse.

The second element revolves around consent. The absence of consent is the defining factor across all forms of sexual assault. Non-consensual sexual touching automatically constitutes abuse or assault. 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.

Who Can Be Liable for Sexual Abuse in Louisiana?

Victims of sexual abuse or assault can obviously sue the individual person that actually committed the acts of abuse. In many cases, however, suing the abusers is somewhat pointless because unless that person is very wealthy, you won’t be able to get any money out of them.

The criminal who actually committed the abuse rarely has the deep pockets necessary to cover civil liabilities.  So the primary challenge for sex abuse attorneys is proving that the church or employer who was responsible for supervising the perpetrator “knew or should have known” – the standard under Louisiana law –  about the perpetrator’s behavior and propensity for abusing minors.

Because such abuse often happens in private, it can sometimes be difficult to establish the employer’s knowledge or negligence. But it is usually pretty easy. Because what our sex abuse lawyers see in these cases is most perpetrators leave tons of breadcrumbs that are ignored.  The evidence in these cases is often loaded with inappropriate behavior by the perpetrator, meetings with children in private, or giving gifts and attention to children would make anyone who cared enough want to investigate further.

Even if the employer claims no knowledge of the abuse, they can still be held liable if they were negligent in their hiring or supervision of the perpetrator. To establish liability, an attorney should investigate whether there were protocols in place to prevent abuse and whether staff followed these protocols.

Louisiana Statute of Limitations for Sex Abuse Civil Cases

Louisiana is among the growing number of states that has recently changed its statute of limitations laws to make it easier for victims of child sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits. In 2021, Louisiana eliminated its statute of limitations for all future civil lawsuits based on child sexual abuse. This means there is no SOL for child sex abuse lawsuits based on abuse occurring after January 1, 2021.

As part of that same law, Louisiana also created a 3-year “lookback window” which gave victims of child sexual abuse a period of 3 years to file civil lawsuits free of any SOL limit and regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred. That 3-year lookback window is set to expire in June 2024. La. Stat. Ann. § 9:2800.9 (2021)

Challenges to the Constitutionality of New Louisiana SOL Law

In Bienvenu v. Doe, the Louisiana Supreme Court addressed the constitutionality of La. Rev. Stat. § 9:2800.9, which revived certain child sex abuse claims that had previously expired due to prescription (similar to the statute of limitations in other jurisdictions), allowing them to be filed within a three-year window. The plaintiffs alleged they were sexually abused by a priest during the 1970s. They sought to use this law to bring their claims despite the passage of time.

Unfortunately, the Court found that while the legislature intended for the law to apply retroactively to provide victims a chance to seek justice, such retroactive application conflicted with the due process protections outlined in the Louisiana Constitution. Specifically, the Court held that a defendant’s right to assert prescription—a vested property right once a claim has been prescribed – legal mumbo jumbo if you have ever heard it- cannot be retroactively taken away without violating constitutional due process guarantees.  So the court ruled that the legislation was unconstitutional because it attempted to revive claims for which prescription had already accrued.

Still, the case is not over. The court remanded the case back to the trial court to consider whether there had been any interruption or suspension of prescription that might allow the plaintiffs’ claims to proceed, such as through the doctrine of contra non valentem, which prevents prescription from running against a person who is unable to bring their suit due to certain conditions.

No matter how you slice it, this is a big loss for sex abuse victims in Louisiana.

Calculating Settlement Amounts in Sex Abuse Cases in Louisiana

In many sex abuse cases in Louisiana, victims are awarded settlements by the institutions or individuals responsible for their abuse. The amount of these settlements can vary widely depending on the case’s specifics.

One factor that can influence the size of a settlement is the severity of the abuse suffered by the victim. Victims who have suffered more severe abuse, such as repeated assaults over a long period, may be awarded larger settlements than those who experienced a single instance of abuse.

Another factor influencing settlement amounts is the institution or individual responsible for the abuse. For example, settlements involving the Catholic Church or other large institutions may be larger than settlements involving individual abusers with fewer assets.

Finally, the legal team representing the victim can also play a role in determining the size of a settlement. Experienced attorneys with a track record of success in sex abuse cases may be able to negotiate larger settlements on behalf of their clients.

Settlements and Verdicts in Louisiana Sex Abuse Lawsuits

$1,250,000 Verdict: The victim, an 11-year-old boy, claimed he suffered sexual abuse and assault at the hands of Rev. Gilbert Gauthe. The boy’s parents said sexual abuse by the priest caused him to have severe emotional problems. Rev. Gauthe had previously pleaded guilty to 33 counts of sexual molestation of altar boys and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

$75,000 Verdict: A minor female suffered severe mental and physical injuries when she was sexually molested by defendant over a period of six months. Plaintiff contended she will continue to incur expenses for medical and other professional services as a result of the sexual abuse and emotional damages.

$170,000 Verdict: The plaintiff claimed that he was sexually abused by a man who, along with his wife, headed the local church youth group that the plaintiff was a part of. The jury found that the church was not liable and awarded the verdict only against the individual abuser.

$267,500 Verdict: The female plaintiff alleged that she was sexually molested by the defendant, a family friend and neighbor, from the time she was age 9 until she was age 14.

$1,800,000 Verdict: In a lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Lafayette the plaintiff, a former altar boy, claimed that he was sexually molested by Rev. Gilbert Gauthe more than 30 times when he was an altar boy at St. John’s Catholic Church in Henry, LA.

Contact Our Louisiana Abuse Lawyers

If you are considering filing a civil lawsuit for sex abuse in Louisiana, contact us at 800-553-8082 for a free consultation.

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