Mississippi Sex Abuse Lawsuits

Under Mississippi 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 Mississippi. We will also analyze the potential settlement value of Mississippi sex abuse lawsuits.

Definition of Sexual Abuse in Mississippi

Sexual abuse and sexual assault are defined in Mississippi as any deliberate or intentional sexual touching or contact without the other individual’s consent, motivated by sexual gratification, arousal, or humiliation.

To meet the criteria of sexual abuse or “sexual battery”, two key elements must be present. First, the sexual touching must be intentional. Instances where one unintentionally touches a person’s breast or genitals, such as in a crowded elevator or while attempting to prevent a fall, lack the requisite intent to qualify as sexual battery.

The second crucial element is the absence of consent. For intentional sexual touching to be deemed sexual abuse, it must occur without consent. Under Mississippi law, individuals under 18 years of age are incapable of providing consent for sexual touching. This means that any sexual interaction with a minor by an adult is automatically classified as sexual battery.

For example, if an adult engages in a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old, it constitutes sexual battery even if the 15-year-old consents willingly. Legally, the 15-year-old lacks the capacity to consent to sexual contact with the adult.

When Can Abuse Victims Sue?

Sexual abuse or assault is both a criminal and civil offense in Mississippi. 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.

The burden of proof required to establish sexual battery in a civil case is notably lighter compared to that in a criminal trial. This means that it is much easier for a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit to demonstrate the occurrence of sexual abuse or assault. So even if an offender evades criminal prosecution, they can still be held liable in a civil court of law.

Suing Third Parties in Mississippi Sex Abuse Lawsuits

The most direct defendant in any sexual abuse lawsuit is the person who committed the abuse. The problem with suing the abuser is that they might already be dead or in jail, and even if they are still around, they may not have money or financial resources to pay for any compensation awarded in the case. Going after the abuser only makes sense in a civil case if they are wealthy.

The best way to get money in a civil sex abuse lawsuit 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, churches, gyms, etc. These parties can be held liable in a child sex abuse lawsuit 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 attempt to cover up abuse incidents after the fact.

The following example will help illustrate how third parties can be liable in sexual assault cases. Let’s assume that Kelly was a student at a private school in New Orleans. In 7th grade, Kelly’s teacher, Mr. Collins, sexually abused Kelly. The school had previously received numerous red flags suggesting that Mr. Collins may be a sexual predator, including prior allegations of abuse by former female students and incidents of highly inappropriate behavior. Kelly (or her parents) can file a civil lawsuit against the private school for negligently failing to investigate Mr. Collins and prevent him from abusing students.

Statute of Limitations in Mississippi Sex Abuse Lawsuits

In recent years, many states across the country have passed new laws making it easier for victims of child sex abuse to file lawsuits even years after the abuse occurred. Mississippi has not joined that trend. In fact, Mississippi has one of the most restrictive statutes of limitation for child sexual abuse lawsuits in the country.

In Mississippi, all civil lawsuits for sexual abuse are subject to the general 3 year statute of limitations. Miss. Code Ann. § 15-1-49 If the abuse happens when the victim is a below the age of majority (which in Mississippi is 21), the 3 year period does not begin to run until the victim reaches that age. So child sex abuse victims in Mississippi have until their 24th birthday to file a lawsuit. By comparison, child sex abuse victims in  New York have until their 55th birthday (NY Sex Abuse Law), and in Maryland there is no statute of limitations at all for child sex abuse victims (MD Sex Abuse Law).

Mississippi’s strict 3-year statute of limitations does have some flexibility, however, in the form of the so called “discovery rule.”  The discovery rule is fully applicable to the application of Mississippi’s statute of limitation in child sex abuse cases. This was recently confirmed by the Supreme Court of Mississippi in the case of McGowen v. Roman Cath. Diocese of Biloxi, 319 So. 3d 1086 (Miss. 2021). In McGowen, a child sex abuse victim claimed that he failed to remember the sexual abuse for over 30 years. The court held that this constituted a “latent injury” for purposes of the discovery rule and, therefore, his lawsuit was not barred under the statute of limitations.

Mississippi Sex Abuse Settlements and Verdicts

$30,000 Settlement: A male minor suffered sexual molestation by a nonparty employee at a summer camp run by the defendant charitable organization. The plaintiff contended that the plaintiff failed to properly hire, train and supervise its employees and was the proximate cause of the defendant’s injuries.

$5,100,000 Settlement: Diocese of Jackson settled claims by 19 separate individuals alleging that they were sexually abused by catholic priests during their childhood. The alleged acts of abuse occurred over a 20 years period from the 1960s to the 1980s. Most of the settlement was paid for by church insurance policies, with only $1 million coming from the diocese itself.

$1,000,000 Verdict: A 66-year-old female with alzheimer’s dementia suffered sexual abuse at the defendants’ nursing home. The plaintiff’s next friend contended that the defendant failed to properly supervise the plaintiff, failed to sufficiently staff and equip its facility, allowed the plaintiff to be sexually abused by another resident.

$800,000 Verdict: A female doctoral student suffered sexual abuse by the male third-named defendant professor, harassment, and emotional distress by the remaining male defendant professors who allegedly prevented her from acquiring her doctoral degree while attending the defendant university. The plaintiff contended the defendant failed to properly hire, train and supervise its professors, that the defendants conduct violated her civil rights, that they instituted long delays in approving her dissertation, that the third-named defendant promised to sign her dissertation in return for sexual favors and threatened her that without sex, there would be no approval of her dissertation.

$200,000 Verdict: A female plaintiff in her 20s alleged that the defendant, a doctor, deliberately got her addicted to prescription drugs after treating her for a fractured hand, then used her addiction to coerce her into sexual activities.

Contact Us About Mississippi Sex Abuse Lawsuits

Our lawyers handle sex abuse lawsuits across the country. Call our sexual abuse lawyers at 800-553-8082 for a free consultation or try reaching out online or by text at 410-835-4103.

Contact Information