North Carolina Sex Abuse Lawsuits

Victims of sexual abuse or sexual assault 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 discuss the process of filing a civil lawsuit for sexual abuse in North Carolina. We will look at the relevant laws regarding sex abuse and the average settlement value of these cases.

News & Updates:

June 23, 2024:  A man suing over alleged abuse as a teen has told North Carolina’s top court that a Catholic diocese and a missionary organization cannot evade liability by differentiating between abusers and enablers under state law.

The diocese and Glenmary Home Missioners argue that the SAFE Child Act applies only to perpetrators, not enablers, but the plaintiff contends this interpretation is flawed. His sex abuse lawyers argue that the law’s language is clear and should include those who enable abuse, urging the court to reject the defendants’ narrow reading.

May 20, 2024: The University of North Carolina School of the Arts has settled a school sex abuse lawsuit brought by 65 alumni who alleged extensive sexual and emotional abuse spanning decades. The plaintiffs will receive a total of $12.5 million over four years.

The lawsuit spanned decades and detailed abuses, including classrooms, private homes, motels, and international tours. Allegations included instances of rape, groping, and inappropriate touching during alcohol-fueled parties.

May 6, 2024: Plaintiffs suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte are defending the SAFE Child Act at the North Carolina Supreme Court.

This act, that we discuss in detail below, created a two-year window during 2020 and 2021 allowing alleged victims of child sexual abuse to file lawsuits previously barred by the statute of limitations. Despite lower court rulings against the plaintiffs, the state Supreme Court agreed in March to review this provision. The plaintiffs, identified only as John Doe and John Doe 1K, both claim to have been repeatedly abused by priests from the Diocese as children. They had initially filed lawsuits which were dismissed due to being time-barred, but refilled under the new legislation. Their brief emphasizes the lasting impacts of child sexual abuse and argues for the necessity of the SAFE Child Act, citing it as a crucial legislative measure allowing victims access to justice delayed by the psychological effects of abuse, which often cause delayed disclosures.

May 1, 2024: A lawsuit filed in Charlotte, North Carolina, involves a former Rocky Mount High School student, identified as John Doe, who alleges he was sexually assaulted by his teacher. The lawsuit accuses Johnson of grooming Doe through inappropriate text and social media interactions before committing the assault. It also claims that after the abuse was reported, school officials, including the principal and superintendent, delayed appropriate action, allowing Johnson to continue teaching.

This obviously caused this poor child severe psychological distress and forced him to transfer schools. The lawsuit further alleges that the Nash Board of Education had prior knowledge of the teacher’s misconduct with other students but failed to step up and do the right thing.

April 29, 2024: North Carolina’s highest court has not yet decided whether to hear the Gaston County School Board’s appeal against a ruling that upheld the SAFE Child Act as constitutional. The state Supreme Court dismissed three of the four appeals by the Gaston School Board in this case but did not address the fourth, which remains active.

The Gaston County School Board is challenging the constitutionality of the SAFE Child Act, arguing that it unfairly imposes retrospective legal liability for actions that occurred many years ago, thus violating settled law and due process rights under the North Carolina Constitution.  Our lawyers are seeing similar arguments in other jurisdictions.  They contend that this act allows for the revival of time-barred claims, potentially leading to endless litigation against public and private entities on issues long considered legally resolved. The School Boards Association, of course, has supported this stance, suggesting that the act places an undue burden on current school administrations and could lead to a flood of lawsuits based on allegations from decades ago.  Not mentioned: the burden on victims who otherwise have not opportunity for justice.

In contrast, the majority opinion from the state Court of Appeals, authored by then-Judge Allison Riggs, rejected these arguments. It emphasized that statutes of limitation are procedural, not absolute rights, and that upholding such defenses as constitutional rights would undermine the legislature’s intent to protect vulnerable children from sexual abuse. The decision to revive the plaintiffs’ claims was seen as a necessary step to address serious abuses that had been covered up for years.

March 20, 2024: In a new sex abuse lawsuit alleges with horrific facts that a 12 year-old girl in a wilderness therapy program run by Trails Carolina, LLC was raped and forced to perform oral sex by a female counselor while Trails Carolina ignored the allegations.

Her sexual assault lawsuit alleges Trails Carolina suppressed credible and repeated reports of assault, neglected to implement protective measures against recognized dangers, and upheld policies that violated obligatory reporting regulations, thus creating an environment susceptible to abuse.  Because they were working with troubled teens, they just chalked up all abuse claims as lying kids, the lawsuit claims.

The plaintiff is asking for a jury trial. You cannot assess the credibility of a lawsuit just reading a legal complaint.  But the allegations sound credible.  It they can be shown to be true, a jury will punish this defendant.

Definition of Sexual Abuse or Sexual Assault in North Carolina

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 North Carolina. 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 North Carolina 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 North Carolina, sexual abuse or assault constitutes both a criminal offense and a civil wrongdoing. This grants sexual abuse victims the option to pursue criminal charges and/or initiate a civil lawsuit to seek financial compensation. Any individual who has suffered from sexual abuse or assault has the right to pursue either or both options.

Victims of sexual abuse can pursue a civil lawsuit regardless of whether the perpetrator faced criminal charges or a conviction. In fact, victims can bring a civil lawsuit even if they never reported the abuse to the police and even if they never told anyone about it.

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.

Getting Money from Third Parties in Sex Abuse Lawsuits

The most obvious defendant in any sexual battery lawsuit would be the person who committed the sexual 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 Jimmy was a student at a private school in Charlotte, NC. In 5th grade, Jimmy’s teacher, Mr. Smith, sexually abused him over the year. The school had previously received numerous red flags suggesting that Mr. Smith may be a sexual predator, including prior allegations of abuse by students and incidents of highly inappropriate behavior. Jimmy can file a civil lawsuit against the private school for negligently failing to investigate Mr. Smith and prevent him from abusing students.

North Carolina Juvenile Detention Center Sex Abuse Lawsuits

Individuals who were sexually abused while they were inmates in a North Carolina juvenile detention facility are now filing lawsuits and getting financial compensation. The task of operating juvenile detention centers in North Carolina is handled by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS). NCDPS operates 9 juvenile detention centers, which house juvenile offenders on short-term basis awaiting adjudication. NCDPS also operates 5 youth development centers (“YDCs”), which are longer-term correctional facilities for juveniles that have been sentenced to incarceration of at least 6 months.

The 6 YDCs currently in operation in North Carolina are as follows:

Cabarrus YDC Concord, NC
Chatham YDC Siler City, NC
Edgecombe YDC Rocky Mount, NC
Lenoir YDC Kinston, NC
Rockingham YDC Reidsville, NC

Thanks to a recent increase in public awareness and interest in child sexual abuse, evidence has emerged showing that sexual abuse of inmates at North Carolina’s Youth Development Centers and other juvenile correctional facilities is a major problem. Investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice have shown that 1 out of every 10 juvenile inmates in North Carolina has been the victim of sexual abuse or assault.

Victims of sexual abuse or sexual assault in North Carolina’s juvenile justice facilities are now filing juvenile detention sex abuse lawsuits against NCDPS. The lawsuits accuse NCDPS of negligence in failing to adequately protect juveniles in its custody. Among other failings, NCDPS is accused of failing to properly screen employees during its hiring process, failing to properly train and supervise them after they are hired, and failing to adopt security features and policies that could protect juveniles from sexual abuse.

North Carolina Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

In 2019, North Carolina passed a new law extending the time frame for victims of childhood sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits. Under this law (the SAFE Child Act), childhood victims of sexual abuse have until their 28th birthday to file a civil lawsuit for sexual abuse. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-17(d)  If the sexual abuse occurred when the victim was over the age of 18, the victim has 3 years to file a civil lawsuit under North Carolina law.

North Carolina Sexual Abuse Settlements and Verdicts

$175,000 Verdict: The plaintiff claimed that she suffered mental anguish after she was sexually assaulted on a monthly basis between the ages of six and fourteen by the defendant’s stepfather. The defendant had pled guilty to two counts of assault of a female, although he denied that he had ever sexually assaulted the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s sister, another stepdaughter of the defendant, was likewise molested by the defendant and was awarded for her claim of emotional distress.

$750,000 Verdict: A 25-year-old female inmate claimed that she suffered emotional distress as a result of multiple incidents of sexual misconduct by a male corrections officer employee of the defendant (Department of Corrections). The plaintiff contended that the defendant was negligent in the hiring and supervision of its employees to ensure the safety of inmates and feared that she may have contracted a sexually transmitted disease. The defendant denied liability and contended that the corrections officer was not acting within the scope of his employment or acting under the direction of the correctional authority.

$45,000 Settlement: The plaintiff, A 13-year-old was sexual molested by her male teacher, at the public school where she was enrolled. The plaintiff contended that the school district failed to properly hire, train, and supervise its employees with access to its minor students, failed to prevent the physical and emotional abuse of their students, and that the teacher willfully and maliciously sexually molested the plaintiff with the intent to harm.

$210,000 Verdict: A female plaintiff was a resident at the defendant hospital where she was admitted for depression, suicide attempts and anorexia.  While at the hospital a staff member engaged in a sexual liaison with the plaintiff during her treatment. The plaintiff contended that the hospital employee sexually assaulted her, that the hospital failed to properly supervise her, and that the hospital  failed to provide a safe environment for the plaintiff while she was in their care.

$176,000 Verdict: The plaintiff claimed that she was sexually abused by a male nurse / psychotherapist, employed by the defendant mental health center, while she was being counseled. The plaintiff contended that the mental health center negligently hired, trained, and supervised the nurse who forced the plaintiff to engage in sexual intercourse. The plaintiff further contended that the nurse violated the psychotherapy sexual exploitation act, and that both defendants failed to provide the proper standard of care.

$650,000 Verdict: A 14-year-old female claimed that she suffered sexual molestation and post-traumatic stress disorder inflicted by a 31-year-old male, who was her friend’s father, after he took them to the defendant’s lounge where he was performing. The plaintiff contended that the defendant negligently provided alcohol to the minor plaintiff, allowed the abuser keys and after hour access to the establishment, failed to enact rules disallowing minors to enter the club, and failed to have safety procedures in place preventing after house access.

Contact Us About North Carolina Sex Abuse Lawsuits

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


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