Massachusetts Sex 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 provide a brief overview of sexual abuse lawsuits in Massachusetts. We will look at the Massachusetts statute of limitations for sex abuse civil cases and the potential settlement value of these cases. We will also discuss how a new proposed law in Massachusetts could make it much easier for child sex abuse victims to bring lawsuits. If you have a Massachusetts sex abuse case, contact us today for a free consultation at 800-553-8082.


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Massachusetts Sex Abuse News & Updates:

May 26, 2024: A new federal lawsuit seeking millions in damages was filed against the Amherst-Pelham Regional Public Schools and several current and former administrators by a special education teacher and former union leader. The plaintiff, now serving as the Dean of Students at Amherst Regional Middle School, claims she faced defamation and retaliation for advocating for marginalized students and questioning labor practices. The 27-page lawsuit details events from October 2022 to November 2023, including her alleged wrongful termination in August 2023 and subsequent reinstatement. Additionally, she was placed as Dean of Students in September 2023 but claims she was denied promotion to an administrator role.

The lawsuit also includes a defamation claim, citing an incident where a former district official allegedly distributed defamatory flyers about her and two other employees at a school committee meeting. Her attorney emphasized that defaming educators who advocate for marginalized students is both immoral and illegal, and the lawsuit aims to hold those responsible accountable. The plaintiff is currently on medical leave, receiving treatment for trauma related to the alleged actions of the defendants. The district’s interim superintendent and school committee have not yet responded to requests for comment.


Definition of Sex Abuse in Massachusetts

The legal definition of sexual abuse or sexual assault in Massachusetts is pretty much the same as it is in every other state. Massachusetts defines sexual abuse is as any intentional “sexual touching” without consent. There are 2 key parts or elements to this definition: (1) sexual touching, and (2) lack of consent.

Sexual touching is basically and type of contact or touching of another person’s sexual organs with intent and for the purpose of sexual gratification. Accidentally touching a woman’s breasts in the elevator does not amount to sexual abuse — but deliberately fondling her breasts does.

The other key element that makes something qualify as sexual abuse is the lack of consent. If the sexual touching is done without consent it is automatically abuse or assault. Minors (anyone under the age of 18) lack the legal capacity to give consent, which means any sexual touching by an adult with a minor is necessarily considered sexual abuse.

Who Can Be Held Liable for Sex Abuse in Massachusetts?

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.

Fortunately, Massachusetts law allows abuse victims to file civil lawsuits against third-parties who were negligent in failing to prevent or stop the abuse. Common third-party defendants in sex abuse civil lawsuits include schools, churches, or organizations such as the Boy Scouts. If you can show that the one of these organizations had a duty to prevent or stop the abuse and failed to do so, they can be held legally liable for damages.

Almost any third party (other than the abuser) can be held liable in a sexual assault lawsuit if the third party’s negligence allowed the sexual assault or abuse to occur. One of the most common examples of this is negligent security cases in which a property owner is sued for failing to provide adequate security (e.g., cameras, lighting, etc.).

Holding Churches, Schools and 3rd Parties Liable for Sex Abuse

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 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.

Statute of Limitation for Sex Abuse Lawsuits in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has a very favorable statute of limitation laws when it comes to sex abuse civil lawsuits, particularly cases involving child sex abuse. In 2014, Massachusetts amended its existing SOL law for claims based on child sexual abuse (i.e., abuse that occurred before the plaintiff turned 18). Child sex abuse victims in Massachusetts now have until their 53rd birthday (age of majority plus 35 years) to file a civil lawsuit. Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 260, §§ 2A

The 2014 amendment also revived old claims that had expired under the prior SOL (i.e., claims for abuse occurring years before the 2014 law was passed). However, the revival law only applied to lawsuits against the individual who perpetrated the sexual abuse. It does not apply to claims against third parties like churches or schools.

Massachusetts Sex Abuse Settlements & Verdicts

$1,400,000 Settlement: The Order of Saint Augustine (a branch of the Catholic Church) agreed to a $1.4 million settlement with a group of 11 victims. The victims alleged that they were sexually abused by Reverend John Gallagher in the 1970s. Gallagher was known pedophile who worked at St. Mary’s Parish and school in Lawrence Mass.

$250,000 Verdict: Female plaintiff sued her stepfather claiming that he sexually molested the plaintiff from the ages of 7 through 17 through the use of physical force, threats and mental coercion. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit as an adult against the defendant and contended the defendant committed battery against her as a result of his repeated intentional and deliberate acts of rape, fondling and molestation upon the plaintiff’s body; that the defendant’s conduct was extreme and outrageous and amounted to intentional infliction of emotional distress; that the defendant falsely imprisoned her by restraining her in a bounded area without her consent; and invaded her privacy by intruding on her seclusion or solitude while she slept or bathed.

$4,500,000 Settlement: The Diocese of Springfield, MA agreed to a $4.5 million settlement to compensate a group of 59 individuals who claim that they were victims of sexual abuse committed by various clergy members. The group of accused priests included 18 individuals, whose names were publicly released.

$70,000 Settlement: A 13-year-old male student was allegedly sexually abused by the defendant teacher at the defendant private school. The school had discerned that the defendant teacher had abused four boys, one of which was the plaintiff. The teacher was counselled by the defendant psychologist and pled guilty to raping his nephew and sexually abusing another boy. The headmaster failed to report the abuse.  The plaintiff alleged that the defendants were negligent for failing to report the molestations to the state. The defendants contended that they had held informational services for parents and students instead of reporting the situation.

$30,000 Settlement: A 13-year-old girl was sexually molested by the male defendant, her mother’s cousin, at a family gathering. The defendant was charged by the police with indecent assault and battery. The defendant admitted liability. The plaintiff contended that the female co-defendant, the defendant’s wife, also was liable due to her knowledge of the defendant’s propensity to commit such an act. The settlement was paid 50 percent by the defendant’s insurance company and 50 percent by the defendant.

$97,000 Verdict: A 16-year-old female alleged that she suffered sexual molestation when she was assaulted by the nonparty physician’s assistant in the course and scope of his employment with the defendants. The plaintiff contended that the defendants failed to properly hire, train and supervise its employees, that the nonparty male physician’s assistant examination included parts of her body not related to the physical examination, that he willfully and intentionally engaged in unpermitted contact with intimate parts of her body, that it was not authorized by her medical needs, that the defendants breached its duty of care to the minor plaintiff, and failed to provide the proper standard of care.

Contact Us About Massachusetts Sex Abuse Lawsuits

If you have a potential lawsuit in Massachusetts for sexual abuse or assault, contact our attorneys today at 800-553-8082 or contact us online

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