Minnesota Sex Abuse Lawsuits

Under Minnesota law, anyone who has been the victim of sexual abuse or assault can file a civil lawsuit against not just the person who abused them, but also against churches, schools, or other third parties who negligently enabled the abuse to happen. This post will look at the basic elements of a sex abuse lawsuit in Minnesota. We will also analyze the potential settlement value of Minnesota sex abuse lawsuits.


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How is Sexual Abuse Defined in Minnesota?

Sexual assault or abuse is defined as intentional sexual touching or contact without the other person’s consent and for the purpose of sexual gratification, arousal, or humiliation. In the context of a civil lawsuit, sexual abuse or assault is often referred to as sexual battery, and it can range from groping a breast to rape.

There are two key components that must be present to meet the definition of sexual abuse in Minnesota. First, the sexual touching must be done intentionally. If one inadvertently grabs a student’s breast vagina in a crowded elevator or to catch them from falling, there is no intent, and it does not qualify as sexual abuse.

The second element is the lack of consent. For intentional sexual touching to qualify as abuse or assault, it must be done without mutual consent. Under Minnesota law, minors under the age of 18 cannot give consent to sexual touching. Any sexual contact with a minor by an adult is automatically considered sexual battery.

So if a teacher has a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student, that would be sexual battery even if the student willingly participated and consented. The 16-year-old did not have the legal capacity to consent to sexual contact with the adult teacher.

When Can You Sue for Sexual Abuse in Minnesota?

Sexual abuse or assault is both a criminal and civil offense in Minnesota. This means that sex abuse victims have the right to press criminal charges and/or file a civil lawsuit and seek financial compensation. Anyone who has been the victim of sexual abuse or assault can file a lawsuit.

Sex abuse victims can file a civil lawsuit regardless of whether the abuser was ever criminally charged or convicted. In fact, victims can file a civil lawsuit even if they never reported it to the police and even if they never told anyone about the incident.

The evidentiary burden for proving sexual battery in a civil case is much lower than the burden in a criminal case. This means it is much easier for a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit to prove that the sexual abuse or assault occurred. So even if an abuser escapes criminal justice, they can still be held accountable in a civil court.

Getting Money in Minnesota 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 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 Limitations for Minnesota Sex Abuse Lawsuits

For cases involving sexual abuse of child (i.e., the victim was under 18 when the abuse occurred) there is not statute of limitations for a civil lawsuit, as long as the alleged abuse occurred AFTER 2013. MINN. STAT. ANN. § 541.073 This is because 2013 is when Minnesota enacted a new law lifting its SOL for child sexual abuse cases. That new law also included a lookback window to allow people with expired claims to file suit, but that window expired in 2016. Minnesota earned a grade of B+ on our state SOL report card for sexual abuse statute of limitations laws.

Minnesota Sex Abuse Settlements & Verdicts

Below are summaries of settlements and verdicts in actual Minnesota sexual abuse lawsuits.

$21,500,000 Settlement: The Diocese of Winona-Rochester agreed to settle with a group of 145 victims who alleged that they were sexually abused by clergy within the diocese. Part of the settlement was being covered by the diocese’s insurers.

$54,000 Verdict: A 16-year-old male with a learning disability was sexually abused by another student at the defendant’s public high school. The plaintiff’s mother reported the incident to school officials and was told they would take care of it.  The plaintiff was molested again and brought action for damages. The plaintiff contended that the defendants failed to report the incident to the proper authorities and failed to protect him from further abuse. The defendants maintained that the Mandatory Reporting Act does not create a duty to report by school officials nor does it create a private cause of action for failure to report.

$144,000 Settlement: A male fifth-grade student alleged that the defendant teacher sexually abused him and maintained that the school district was negligent. He contended that the school district had reason to suspect that a child abuser was in its midst, but district officials did nothing about it. Another student filed a joint suit against the defendant and also received a settlement.

$243,000 Verdict: The parents of a six-year-old female claimed that their daughter suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder after she was sexually molested for six years by the 55-year-old male defendant farmer. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant touched their daughter’s genitals, exposed himself to her, and took nude photographs of her on several occasions. The defendant denied touching the plaintiff inappropriately.

$5,000,000 Settlement: The Diocese of Crookston settled with a group of 15 alleged victims who claim that they were sexually abused by church members between 1969 and 2009. The settlement agreement also included some non-monetary requirements.

$75,000 Settlement: A 15-year-old female was raped by a patient in the defendant detoxification center while she too was a patient at the facility. The plaintiff was taking Prozac for psychiatric problems and injested a minimal amount of alcohol. The combination of the alcohol and the medication caused the plaintiff to appear intoxicated, and while at a public mall, she was taken into custody and transferred to the defendant. During the night, a male patient entered the plaintiff’s room and engaged in sexual intercourse with her. The plaintiff contended that the incident aggravated her psychological condition.

Contact Us About Minnesota Sex Abuse Lawsuits

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

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