Pennsylvania Sex Abuse Lawsuits and Settlements

Victims of sexual abuse or sexual assault have the right to file civil lawsuits and get financial compensation. Recent changes in the law are now making it easier for abuse victims to seek justice in the civil courts.

This post will look at the process of filing sex abuse lawsuits in Pennsylvania and review the applicable laws related to sex abuse civil suits. We will also discuss the average settlement compensation and jury payouts of Pennsylvania sex abuse cases and look at recent verdicts and settlements.

If you are a victim of sexual abuse and want to file a sex abuse lawsuit, we can help you. Contact us today at 800-553-8082 or reach out to us online.

Pennsylvania Sex Abuse Lawsuit News and Updates

Before we get into the substance of these cases, let’s take a look at recent news and updates in sex abuse lawsuits and criminal cases in Pennsylvania:

June 3, 2024: In a new child sex abuse lawsuit, a plaintiff has sued the School District of Philadelphia, alleging sexual abuse by an employee at George Washington High School. The plaintiff claims she was sexually abused when she was 15.  She says that despite being aware of the employee’s inappropriate behavior toward minor female students, the School District of Philadelphia allegedly failed to take any meaningful action to protect her, allowing sexual abuse to occur both on and off school grounds

The complaint details the School District’s shortcomings in screening, supervising, and retaining employees, including this particular employee, despite known risks and red flags.

May 28, 2024:  A new detention center abuse lawsuit has been filed against Merakey USA, the operator of Northwestern Academy, a juvenile detention center in Coal Township, Pennsylvania, on behalf of twelve survivors of abuse. The plaintiffs allege that Merakey failed to protect children from widespread sexual abuse by adult employees at Northwestern Academy.  The facility closed in 2016.

May 23, 2024:  Over 60 people have filed lawsuits against the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and the owners of several juvenile detention facilities, alleging widespread sexual abuse by staff. The suits were filed in Philadelphia, Montgomery, and Dauphin counties, as well as in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The defendants include the state-run facilities operated by the DHS and privately owned facilities operated by the Devereux Foundation, Visionquest National Ltd., and Merakey USA.

The lawsuits claim that for decades, children in Pennsylvania’s state-run juvenile detention facilities have been subjected to severe sexual abuse, including groping and rape. Despite a 2010 federal investigation highlighting high rates of abuse, state officials allegedly ignored the findings, with the Bureau of Juvenile Justice Services dismissing the data. The privately owned facilities face similar allegations, with one suit against Devereux describing a resident being drugged, restrained, and abused.

Of course, until Pennsylvania changes its statute of limitations in sex abuse lawsuits like many other states have, there are many more victims who will be denied justice.

We have a page dedicated to Visionquest sex abuse lawsuits. The allegations against that company seem to be growing exponentially.

May 22, 2024: An orthopedic surgeon, John A. Abraham, sued Thomas Jefferson University Hospital for gender discrimination, claiming the hospital’s handling of sexual assault allegations against him was biased. The lawsuit stemmed from an incident at a pool party at Abraham’s home, where a female resident accused him of sexual assault.

Abraham countered that he was the one taken advantage of and treated unfairly. A jury awarded Abraham $15 million, finding that the hospital’s investigation exhibited anti-male bias. However, U.S. District Judge Michael M. Baylson vacated the verdict, citing key text messages from Abraham that were not considered by the jury. These messages included Abraham expressing a desire to have sex with a “young hot single female” before the party and implying during the party that someone stopped him from having sex with the resident. With good reason, Judge Baylson ruled that these texts were relevant and unfavorable to Abraham’s claims.

The case took a turn when Judge Baylson recused himself because his son-in-law worked for the law firm representing Jefferson in the new trial. U.S. District Judge Chad F. Kenney took over and upheld the decision to vacate the $15 million award. Ultimately, the parties reached a settlement, the details of which remain undisclosed.

May 20, 2024: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to address whether the sexual abuse exception to the Local Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act applies only to plaintiffs who were minors when victimized.

This decision comes after the Commonwealth Court reversed a lower court’s ruling that allowed a case to proceed despite the plaintiff, referred to as J.S., being an adult at the time of the alleged assault by Philadelphia Department of Prisons employees. The lower court initially overruled preliminary objections but later requested the appellate court to reverse its decision, aligning with the city’s argument that the sexual abuse exception is limited to victims under 18 years old, as indicated by legislative history and previous state Supreme Court interpretations.

May 16, 2024: The landlord of a Center City Philadelphia office building agreed to pay $6 million to settle claims that inadequate security led to an assault on a paralegal working in the building. The plaintiff, referred to as R.F., alleged that defendants Belmont Funding, 211 N. 13th Street Associates, and North 13 LLC allowed an unauthorized man to enter the building, who then assaulted and raped her. The plaintiff argued that the attack could have been prevented with proper security measures in place, which the defendants failed to provide.

The defendant argued that the attacker was solely responsible for the harm caused. But, wisely, they agreed to a settlement for the full amount of the defendants’ insurance limit.

May 14, 2024: Three sex abuse plaintiffs who were previously denied class certification for their civil rights claims against Abraxas Youth and Family Services have decided to withdraw their federal lawsuit against the juvenile facility operator. They are planning to refile their remaining claims in state court.

The decision to withdraw follows a ruling by U.S. District Judge Christy Criswell Wiegand approximately ten weeks prior, which determined that class certification for their claims—encompassing allegations of mental, physical, and sexual abuse by staff at Abraxas facilities dating back to 2000—was too complex to be granted.

April 18, 2024: A 69-year-old man from Westmoreland County and member of the Jehovah’s Witness congregation in New Kensington, has been charged with sexually assaulting a young girl from ages 6 to 9 between 1991 and 1994. He is also alleged to have abused another girl in the late 1980s, though charges were not filed due to the statute of limitations expiring.

These charges are part of a larger investigation by a statewide grand jury into sexual abuse within Jehovah’s Witness congregations in Pennsylvania, which has been ongoing since 2019. This investigation has led to the arrest of at least 14 people in the last few years.

These victims will all have viable claims if the state legislature steps up and changes the sex abuse statute of limitations.

April 11, 2024: In a lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, a plaintiff alleges experiencing a series of severe and pervasive incidents of sexual harassment while employed as a Licensed Practical Nurse at a nursing and rehabilitation center and its affiliated entities. The complaint outlines multiple instances where the plaintiff was subjected to unwanted physical contact, including groping of her breasts and buttocks, by a coworker. Despite the plaintiff’s clear objections and distress, her complaints to human resources and supervisory staff were reportedly dismissed or ignored, with no substantial investigation or corrective action taken.

The plaintiff also recounts a disturbing incident where a resident’s spouse inappropriately touched her, further contributing to her feeling of an unsafe work environment. Even after reporting this incident, she faced ridicule rather than support from her supervisors. The alleged conduct created a hostile work environment that significantly impacted the plaintiff’s mental health and job performance, ultimately leading her to resign.

The lawsuit claims violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, citing discrimination based on sex, a failure to provide a safe working environment, and retaliation against the plaintiff for her complaints. The plaintiff seeks damages for emotional distress, loss of income, and other harms, arguing that the defendants’ actions or inactions directly violated her rights and well-being. The case underscores the importance of employers taking prompt and effective action to address sexual harassment allegations to protect their employees’ rights and safety.

February 28, 2024: Legislation enabling individuals to file lawsuits for previously time-barred claims of child sexual abuse was approved by the Pennsylvania House on Friday.  The proposed two-year litigation window would extend to all victims previously constrained by the state’s restrictive timelines.

The proposal to lift the statute of limitations for sex abuse crimes temporarily was close to being presented to voters for a final decision two years ago but was delayed due to procedural errors by state officials.

On Friday, the House passed, by a vote of 161-40, a constitutional amendment to the Senate that, if agreed upon, could be up for voter approval by November. Additionally, with a vote of 134-67, they passed regular legislation that would become effective immediately upon Senate approval and gubernatorial signature.

The fate of these bills in the state Senate remains uncertain. But we are hopeful.

February 13, 2024: You will see more Pennsylvania Juvenile Detention Center lawsuits in 2024.

February 7, 2024:  A McDonald’s franchisee, declared bankrupt, agreed to a $4.35 million settlement with the family of a 14-year-old employee who was raped by a manager, a convicted child sex offender. This settlement, pending approval in Pennsylvania state court, aims to close the lawsuit against Rice Enterprises LLC, the operator of eight McDonald’s locations in Allegheny County.

The manager involved received a sentence in 2021 ranging from four to 10 years for multiple offenses, including assault and endangering the welfare of children. Garner’s employment history with McDonald’s came under scrutiny due to his past conviction in 2003 for aggravated indecent assault and a guilty plea for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl.

A second teenage girl has a lawsuit that is still pending.

February 2, 2024:  In 2020, following a significant grand jury report on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, Pennsylvania sought to amend its constitution to allow for civil lawsuits over childhood sexual abuse outside the current statute of limitations. But in a complete mess, this bipartisan effort failed due to a procedural error by the then Secretary of the Commonwealth, leading to her resignation in 2021.

In 2024, Senate Bill 1, House Bill 1, and Senate Bill 23 all aim to secure a second passage for the amendment but have encountered obstacles, mainly due to disagreements over bundling unrelated amendments. The Senate passed Senate Bill 1 as a package including the lawsuit window, voter ID, and regulatory disapproval amendments. Still, the House, holding a slight Democratic majority, removed the latter two, citing constitutional concerns about combining different issues.

Is this the year this finally gets passed?

January 28, 2024: A New Jersey appellate panel upheld the decision to dismiss three lawsuits alleging priest sexual abuse against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, stating that New Jersey lacks jurisdiction over the archdiocese in these cases.

January 15, 2024: Corey Kolcharno, a former criminal defense attorney from Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, has been sentenced to four to 23 months in prison after admitting to trading legal services for sexual favors, as reported by the state Attorney General’s Office.

It sounds like a bad made-for-TV movie.  Kolcharno plead guilty to four felony charges of promoting prostitution in October. The charges detailed that he solicited nude photos and worn underwear from four women, either clients or their relatives, offering to waive their legal fees in return.

Depressingly, the 49-year-old Kolcharno was a former District Attorney.

December 31, 2023:  A Pennsylvania teenager recounted being sexually assaulted by her teacher, stating she was coerced into silence through manipulation involving the teacher’s personal and professional life.

Emily Lehneis, 31, and currently pregnant with her third child, was sentenced last week to a year of incarceration followed by five years of probation after the victim’s statement was presented in court.

The teenager detailed how the relationship began in 2022 at Susquehannock High School, involving the exchange of explicit images and a kiss, with Lehneis asking her to become her “secret girlfriend.”

September 26, 2023: Emily Lehneis, a former Southern York County teacher, has been charged with sexual abuse of children, obscenity, institutional sexual assault, unlawful contact with a minor, and corruption of minors.

The charges stem from allegations that she kissed a high school student and exchanged sexually explicit photos with them. Lehneis, who had worked as a special education teacher at Susquehannock High School, resigned from her position in January.

The case is pending in the York County Court of Common Pleas.

September 24, 2023: The Pennsylvania General Assembly has missed the deadline to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot, which would have provided survivors of childhood sexual abuse a two-year window to seek compensation against their abusers and institutions that protected them.

What killed this effort to bring justice for victims in Pennsylvania clergy abuse and other sexual assault cases?  The same partisan nonsense that is hurting the whole country.  Partisan bickering even destroys progress where the parties agree.

But the general bipartisan support for the measure among current state lawmakers was overshadowed by disputes between Democratic and Republican caucuses who were arguing about unrelated amendments to the bill.  It is depressing how the sausage gets made and the victims here are people who deserve justice.

A new sex abuse statute of limitation will be passed in Pennsylvania.  Eventually. But justice delays is justice denied

September 23, 2023: A Greene County man has been ordered to stand trial after his preliminary hearing on over 2,000 child sex abuse charges dating back to 2018 when the victim was aged between 8 and 11. Dustin Lane is accused of inappropriate touching, sexual abuse, and showing explicit material to the child.

The investigation began in May following reports, and the victim’s sibling corroborated many details of the abuse. Lane allegedly gave the child money and gifts to keep the abuse concealed. While Lane denied the allegations, investigators found inconsistencies in his statements. He faces numerous felony charges, including child rape, indecent assault, and corruption of minors.

September 21, 2023: A Bristol Borough man, has been sentenced to jail time after pleading no contest to statutory sexual assault and corruption of a minor charges related to the alleged sexual abuse of a teenager in Perkasie Borough.

While an additional charge was dismissed as part of his plea, a no-contest plea indicates an acknowledgment of the likelihood of a guilty verdict based on available evidence. Bucks County Common Pleas Judge Stephen Corr sentenced Jason Batistoni to 16 months to 5 years in jail, followed by two years of probation, along with sex offender supervision upon release and compliance with sex offender conditions.

August 18, 2023: Jeffrey Thomas, a former district attorney of western Pennsylvania’s Somerset County, was sentenced yesterday to prison for two years to seven years. Earlier this year, a Somerset County jury convicted Thomas of several charges including strangulation, criminal trespassing, simple assault, unlawful restraint, indecent assault, and false imprisonment.  The 37-year-old will also have to register as a sex offender for the next 15 years. The prosecution told the jury that Thomas unexpectedly arrived at a woman’s residence in Windber carrying beer. He refused to depart and proceeded to choke, hit, and sexually assault the woman, only leaving once she promised not to alert the police. The woman’s 8-year-old daughter was sleeping in an upstairs room.

August 15, 2023: The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has settled for $3.5 million over allegations that a former religious school student was sexually abused by a now-deceased priest. You do not get sex abuse settlements very often in individual cases.  So this gives victims a good look at sex abuse settlement amounts.

Previously, the archdiocese had offered the plaintiff $400,000 through this fund. However, the plaintiff opted for litigation, correctly believing they would get a higher settlement amount.  The plaintiff, currently 30 years old, accused the archdiocese of exposing him and other children to danger by ignoring prior allegations against the priest who allegedly abused him. The plaintiff asserted that this priest assaulted him in 2006 and intimidated him into silence. The plaintiff’s pretrial documentation highlighted multiple abuse allegations against the priest going back to the year he was ordained.

The archdiocese did not just roll over on this sex abuse lawsuit. It initially questioned the plaintiff’s credibility and denied negligence. They initially argued that only one abuse allegation against the priest was made before 2006.  But that was not true.

August 10, 2023: The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has agreed to a $3.5 million settlement in a lawsuit involving allegations of sexual assault against a 14-year-old boy nearly two decades ago. The lawsuit, filed in 2020, claimed that Pastor John Close assaulted the boy at St. Katherine’s of Siena in Wayne in 2006. The victim, now 31, initially disclosed the abuse in 2018, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse. The lawsuit argued that the archdiocese was aware of a pattern of abusive behavior by Close dating back to 1976, including prior allegations. Despite investigations, the accusations against Close were often dismissed. But at least this victim finally received at least some measure of justice.

August 3, 2023: Survivors of childhood sexual abuse in Pennsylvania will have to continue waiting for justice as the Pennsylvania General Assembly missed the deadline to get a proposed constitutional amendment, allowing a two-year window for survivors to seek monetary damages against their abusers and the institutions that protected them, onto the November ballot. This delay follows nearly two decades of inaction and disputes between the Democratic and Republican caucuses over bundling the proposal with other amendments, including voter ID requirements. The failure to pass this amendment means that survivors still face the statute of limitations that prevents them from filing suits for abuse that occurred many years ago. There are high hopes for 2024… but we said that this year.

August 2, 2023: The Archdiocese of Philadelphia reported that it paid $78.5 million in clergy sex abuse reparations through a reconciliation program that was launched in 2018 and concluded this year.

July 11, 2023: A former Jehovah’s Witness has filed a lawsuit alleging that she was sexually abused by two fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses when she was a teenager. The abuse, which lasted for over a year, was initially reported to the elders within the organization. However, instead of supporting her, the elders warned her against involving the police, fearing it would bring “reproach” to Jehovah’s name. They also shunned her, causing her to spiral into depression. The lawsuit accuses Witness elders of destroying records of her case and ignoring Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law. The lawsuit comes amid a broader investigation into the organization’s handling of child sex abuse cases by Pennsylvania’s Attorney General’s Office, with several Witnesses already facing charges related to sexual assault of minors.

July 10, 2023: A civil lawsuit with tenacles in New York and Philadelphia is pending after Rev. James Garisto, a Staten Island priest, entered a no-contest plea to corruption of a minor and indecent assault charges in Fishtown, admitting to sexually abusing an underage boy in Fishtown during the mid-2000s. Garisto, who had spent almost four decades as a priest, teacher, and school administrator in the Archdiocese of New York, had multiple priest abuse allegations against him, leading to his suspension in 2019. Last year, a  man sued Garisto for the clergy abuse he suffered as a child, prompting another Philadelphia man to come forward, alleging abuse between 1995 and 2002. Criminal charges were initially filed but dropped due to the statute of limitations. Garisto’s no-contest plea will not be admissible in the pending civil lawsuit against him and the Archdiocese of New York, which recently reached a settlement with the victim.

Filing a Civil Lawsuit for Sex Abuse in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law permits victims of sex abuse to bring civil lawsuits and seek monetary compensation. The right to bring a civil lawsuit is not contingent on whether the victim pressed criminal charges. Abuse victims can file a civil suit regardless of whether they reported the abuse to the police when it happened. It also doesn’t matter whether the abuser was convicted.

Victims can bring civil lawsuits for sexual abuse as long as they are presently willing to testify under oath about the facts of the alleged sexual abuse or assault. Other forms of evidence, such as medical records or fact testimony from other witnesses, can also support the victim’s testimony.

If you file a sexual abuse lawsuit in Pennsylvania, the case will be public record. However, you may be able to keep your name and identity confidential. Pennsylvania’s court rules allow victims to keep their names confidential and use “Jane Doe” or initials in court filings.

Holding Third Parties Liable for Sex Abuse

The primary defendant in any sexual battery lawsuit would be the person who committed the sexual assault. 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.

To get actual compensation in a sex abuse lawsuit, the plaintiff needs to go after a third party with deep pockets, like a church, school, or corporation. 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 attempt to cover up abuse incidents afterward.

Let’s consider a typical example of how third parties can be liable for sex abuse in Pennsylvania. Let’s say that a guard at a juvenile detention facility is sexually abusing boys who are inmates. Several victims file complaints, but the facility ignores them and allows the guard to continue his abuse. The victim can file a civil lawsuit against the detention facility (or the County that operates it) for negligently failing to investigate and protect them from abuse.

Similar theories of liability are frequently used to hold churches, schools, and organizations like the Boy Scouts liable in civil sexual assault cases.

The Definition of Sexual Abuse in Pennsylvania

Under Pennsylvania law, sexual assault or battery is defined as any non-consensual touching of a person’s intimate parts intentionally done for sexual gratification or arousal. Under this broad definition, anything from groping breasts at an office happy hour to forcible rape falls under the definition of sexual assault or abuse.

Two critical elements must be present for an action to qualify as sexual battery in Pennsylvania: (1) sexual intent and (2) lack of consent. The first element is sexual intent. The plaintiff must show that the defendant engaged in unwanted touching for sexual gratification. Accidentally touching someone’s private parts does not count.

The second element is the lack of consent. For intentional touching to qualify as sexual battery, it must be done without consent. Legally, children under the age of 18 cannot give consent to sexual touching. This means that any intentional sexual contact with a minor by an adult lacks consent and qualifies as sexual battery.

Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations for Sex Abuse Lawsuits

Victims considering filing a sex abuse civil lawsuit in Pennsylvania must know the applicable statute of limitations. The statute of limitations imposes a legal deadline on how long a plaintiff can wait before filing a lawsuit. The plaintiff loses their right to sue if the case is not filed before the deadline expires.

SOL for Post-2019 Sex Abuse

In 2019,  an amendment to to the Pennsylvania sex abuse statute of limitations was passed.   Under this new law, victims of childhood sexual abuse have until their 55th birthday to file a civil lawsuit for sexual battery. For victims between 18-24 when the abuse occurred, the new law gives them until their 30th birthday to file a civil lawsuit. These new laws only apply to cases where sexual abuse occurred AFTER January 1, 2019. Abuse occurring before 2019 is subject to the old statute of limitations.

SOL for Pre-2019 Sex Abuse

Cases involving sexual abuse or assault before January 1, 2019, are subject to Pennsylvania’s general 2-year statute of limitations. If the abuse occurred when the victim was an adult (over age 18), the victim has 2-years from the last assault to file a civil lawsuit.

For cases where the victim was a child when the abuse occurred, the 2-year statute of limitations gets tolled until the victim turns 18. So victims of child sex abuse occurring before 2019 would have until their 20th birthday to file a civil lawsuit.

Expanding the Pennsylvania Sex Abuse Statute of Limitations

Pennsylvania was very close to passing a new law or amendment to the state constitution (House Bill 14) that will eliminate the statute of limitations for all civil lawsuits involving sexual abuse of a minor. The new law was passed by the lower branch of the Pennsylvania legislature and was under consideration by the State Senate.

But the legislature to meet the deadline to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot, which would have allowed survivors of childhood sexual abuse a two-year window to seek monetary damages from their abusers and the institutions that protected them.

This legislative failure follows nearly two decades of obstacles that have stopped many survivors – often clergy abuse survivors which is where the lobbying against his bill came from – path to achieving justice.

This is not some Trump-Biden split where everyone falls behind partisan positions.  There was bipartisan support for this new Pennsylvania sex abuse statute of limitations.  But, depressingly, there were partisan differences between the Democrats and Republicans over whether to bundle the proposal with other amendments, including one related to voter ID requirements which has nothing to do with protecting sexual abuse victims.

History of Sex Abuse in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has a troubling past with clergy abuse and other sex abuse cases. In 2005, the Philadelphia DA initiated a groundbreaking investigation into clergy sexual abuse within the Philadelphia Archdiocese, leading to a comprehensive 400-plus-page report that unveiled shocking abuse inflicted by over 60 priests on hundreds of children.

In 2011, we saw the Penn State University tragedy unfold with the attorney general’s 339 pages report of damning evidence detailing Sandusky’s elaborate scheme, which included grooming and exploiting boys through his nonprofit, the university, and local schools, and the people who looked the other way.

In 2016, another grand jury revealed a 147-page exposé of at least “six decades of persistent and concealed sexual abuse of hundreds of children by at least 50 priests” within the Altoona-Johnstown diocese.

Then, in 2017, a grand jury report by the Bucks County district attorney laid bare decades of abuse at a private boarding school near New Hope, emphasizing the importance of exposing these crimes and the reasons they remained hidden for so long.

In 2018, the Pennsylvania Attorney General released a groundbreaking 1,356-page grand jury report, unrivaled anywhere in the country, exposing child sex crimes and cover-ups within Pennsylvania’s six remaining Catholic dioceses.

Today, the Pennsylvania Attorney General is investigating the abuse of Jehovah’s Witness children, already resulting in criminal charges against five individuals.

Settlement Value of Sex Abuse Lawsuits in Pennsylvania

The settlement value of Pennsylvania sex abuse lawsuits against third parties such as schools, churches, or corporations is based on several factors. Below is a list of the primary factors that tend to drive the value of these sex abuse cases up or down.

  • Evidentiary Strength: The strength and quality of the evidence showing that the sexual abuse happened is one of the most critical factors impacting the value of abuse cases. When there is solid, reliable evidence to substantiate the abuse allegations made by the plaintiff, the case has a much higher value.
  • Abuse Severity: The severity and nature of the sexual abuse can also drive the case’s value upward. The frequency and duration of the abuse also come into play here. A case involving a single incident of abuse will be worth less than one involving regular abuse lasting years.
  • Strength of 3rd Party Liability Theory: The level of responsibility or negligence by the church or responsibility of just how much they failed the victim will affect the settlement amount of a Pennsylvania sex abuse lawsuit. If the church or corporation was either aware of the abuse or clearly turned a blind eye to all of the clues, that really impacts settlement amounts because of how it strengthens the case and the adverse publicity from a jury verdict with those facts. So if they tried to cover up the abuse, a jury would destroy them, impacting settlement payouts.
  • Reputation and Resources of 3rd Party: The church’s financial position and public image can influence the settlement amount. Big corporations or organizations may be willing to pay more money to settle cases and protect their public image.
  • Your Lawyer: The experience and skill of the attorneys representing both the victim and the church or company can influence the settlement process and the final settlement amount. The best Pennsylvania sex abuse lawyers fetch the higher settlement amounts for their clients.

Certainly, the ability of a third party to pay is often critical to getting fair settlement compensation.  This is not always easy in Pennsylvania in clergy abuse lawsuits where you would think the ability to pay would not be an issue.

For example, the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg created a compensation fund.  On February 15, 2023, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania granted final approval to the Plan of Reorganization for the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg.

This Plan elucidates the procedures by which the Diocese and its related entities will establish a Survivor Compensation Trust, contribute $7.5 million for financial restitution to survivors of clergy sexual abuse, and implement enhanced child safety measures.

In addition, the Diocese’s current and previous insurance providers will inject a further $10.75 million into the Trust. Before initiating the reorganization, the Diocese authorized an independent Survivor Compensation Program, distributing $12,784,450 to aid 111 survivors. So that is a per-person average sex abuse settlement of $115,000.  That is not a lot of compensation for a clergy abuse lawsuit.

Pennsylvania Sex Abuse Settlements and Verdicts

One tool to help you understand how much your Pennsylvania sex abuse lawsuit might be worth is comparing your case to previous settlements and verdicts in similar cases involving sexual abuse. While the settlements and verdicts summarized below can provide valuable insights into potential compensation, you must understand that every case is unique and complex, and it’s impossible to accurately summarize a case in a single paragraph. You cannot assume that a similar case will have the same outcome.

Prior settlements and verdicts cannot offer an accurate prediction of what your case will be worth. They can help provide a general understanding of the range of potential compensation. Still, they should be considered in conjunction with other case evaluation tools to accurately determine your claim’s value.

  • $4,400,000 Settlement (Allegheny County 2024): A former McDonald’s employee was sexually assaulted at age 14 in a Bethel Park McDonald’s restroom.  Of course, this is a simple case.  How is it possible for a convicted, registered sex offender to be employed as a manager overseeing 14- to 17-year-old girls at a McDonald’s?
  • $3,500,000 Settlement (Delaware County 2023):  A man sexually assaulted a 14-year-old boy in Delaware County. The victim, who had attended a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine program at St. Katherine’s of Siena in Wayne, claimed that the man raped him after a confession in the priest’s office, with threats of eternal damnation if he disclosed the assault. This awful human who is now deceased worked at various parishes and schools in the region over his 42 years in the ministry.  His clergy abuse lawyer filed a lawsuit contending that the archdiocese was aware of this pattern of behavior as early as 1976 but failed to take appropriate action.
  • $18,250,000 Settlement (Dauphin County 2023): The Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg and a committee representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse agreed on an $18.25 million settlement fund to resolve remaining abuse claims. This settlement is part of a reorganization plan for the diocese’s bankruptcy case, which requires approval from creditors and the overseeing judge. The average clergy abuse settlement was approximately $309,000.
  • $3,700,000 Settlement (Bucks County 2022): This case involved 21 minor plaintiffs who suffered multiple injuries, including sexual abuse inflicted by priests and a teacher at the defendant diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. The plaintiffs’ clergy abuse lawsuit contended that the diocese had prior knowledge regarding the sexual abuse of the plaintiffs but failed to take action to prevent further abuse and breached their duty to ensure the safety of minors entrusted to their care.
  • $70,000 Settlement (York County 2021): A 75-year-old resident female with Alzheimer’s disease was allegedly sexually assaulted by a laundry worker at the nursing home where she was a resident. That lawsuit alleged that the nursing failed to monitor and investigate reports of similar conduct.
  • $2,000,000 Settlement (Erie County 2019): The Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie has agreed to a $2 million settlement with a man who was allegedly sexually abused by former priest David Poulson from 2002 to 2010. The abuse occurred while Poulson was assigned to St. Michael’s Church in Fryburg and St. Anthony of Padua Church in Cambridge Springs. Poulson, who made Doe say confession after the assaults, was charged with indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children, and corruption of minors. Defrocked in January and sentenced to two and a half to 14 years in prison, Poulson’s crimes had been reported to the Erie Diocese as early as 2010, but law enforcement was only notified following a grand jury subpoena in 2016.
  • $150,000 Settlement  (Bucks County 2018): A 7-year-old boy was placed in temporary custody at Christ’s Home for Children, where he allegedly suffered repeated sexual assaults and abuse by other older residents. The lawsuit alleged that the facility failed to supervise the residents and prevent the abuse.
  • $1,530,000 Verdict (E.D. Pa. 2018): A 13-year-old boy was a resident in a treatment facility operated by the defendant. During his residency, the boy was allegedly the victim of a single incident of sexual abuse by an older boy at the facility. The lawsuit alleged the defendant was negligent for failing to utilize safeguards, policies, and procedures.
  • $200,000 Settlement (E.D. Pa. 2017): A female high-school student in the Pennridge School District reportedly suffered severe and ongoing psychological damage from abuse by the district’s basketball team coach. The abuse included 15 sexual encounters that lacked consent because the girl was under 18.

Contact Us About Pennsylvania Sex Abuse Lawsuits

If you are a victim of sexual abuse and want to file a sex abuse lawsuit in Pennsylvania, contact us today at 800-553-8082 or reach out to us online.

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