Philadelphia Sex Abuse Lawsuits

In this post, we will look at Philadelphia sex abuse lawsuits. We will explain how sex abuse is defined under Pennsylvania law and the basics of how victims of sexual abuse in Philadelphia can file civil lawsuits and get financial compensation. We will also look at various schools, churches and other Philadelphia institutions that have been held liable in sex abuse lawsuits recently.


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Definition of Sex Abuse in Philadelphia

For purposes of a civil lawsuit, sexual abuse and sexual assault have the same definition in Pennsylvania as they do in the criminal law context. Under Pennsylvania law, sexual abuse is defined as intentional sexual contact or touching of the intimate parts of another person for the express purpose of gratifying the abuser or degrading the victim. This definition covers everything from forcible rape to groping.

The hallmark that defines all types and categories of sexual abuse or assault is the lack of consent. In the absence of consent, any form of sexual contact is actionable as sexual abuse or assault. Minors (under the age of 18) lack the legal capacity to give consent to sexual contact. Therefore, any intentional sexual contact by an adult with a minor is necessarily considered sexual abuse.

Statute of Limitations in Philadelphia Sex Abuse Lawsuits

Under Pennsylvania law, the applicable statute of limitations in a civil sex abuse lawsuit (involving sexual abuse of a child) is different depending on whether the abuse occurred before or after 2019.

If Abuse Occurred AFTER January 1, 2019:

Under a relatively new law in Pennsylvania, for child sexual abuse (victim was under 18) occurring after January 1, 2019, the abuse victim has until their 55th birthday to bring a civil lawsuit based on that abuse. If the victim was between the ages of 18-24 when the abuse occurred, Pennsylvania law gives them until their 30th birthday to file a civil lawsuit.

If Abuse Occurred BEFORE January 1, 2019:

If the sexual abuse occurred before January 1, 2019, then Pennsylvania’s general 2-year statute of limitations will apply. For child sex abuse victims, the 2-year SOL period does not begin to run until they turn 18, so they have until their 20th birthday to file a lawsuit. For adult victims, the 2-year SOL period begins to run from the date of the last incident of abuse.

Holding Schools, Churches and Other Third Parties Liable for Sex Abuse

The person who committed the sexual assault or abuse with always be a primary defendant in any sexual battery lawsuit. Suing the abuser is often pointless, however, because they typically will not have the financial resources to pay for any settlement or verdict in the case. Suing the abuser only makes sense in a civil case if they are rich.

The key to financial success in a Philadelphia sex abuse lawsuit is going after a third party organizational defendant 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.

Examples of Third-Party Liability in Philadelphia Sex Abuse Cases

Below are summaries of several high-profile examples of third-parties like schools and churches being held liable for negligence in sex abuse civil lawsuits.

Archdiocese of Philadelphia

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia oversees all catholic churches and congregations in the greater Philadelphia area. It encompasses over 2,000 square miles and includes five counties: Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery. The catholic church has been a frequent target of sexual abuse lawsuits across the country due to its decades of failure in dealing with pedophiles among its clergy.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has not been overwhelmed by sexual abuse lawsuits (like many other dioceses around the country). However, it has still faced its fair share of sex abuse claims. In 2018, a grad jury investigation report identified hundreds of catholic priest in the Philadelphia area that sexually abused over 1,000 victims over several decades. In response, the Philadelphia Archdiocese established a victim compensation fund (which was open to claims for a limited time period) and it has paid a reported $80 million to over 400 individual claimants.

The Glen Mills Reform School

The Glen Mills Reform School was one of the oldest reformatory schools in the country of juvenile offenders. It was located just outside Philadelphia in Delaware County. In 2019, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services revoked the school’s license after evidence emerged that detainees at the school were subjected to systemic physical and sexual abuse by staff members.

Following the shutdown and the investigation report detailing decades of abuse, over 800 individual claims were file against Glen Mills, many for acts sexual abuse. The claims have been consolidated into a state court version of an MDL (In re: The Glen Mills Schools Litigation, Dkt. No. 900.) in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

Delaware County Juvenile Detention Center (DCJDC)

The Delaware County Juvenile Detention Center (DCJDC) houses juvenile criminal offenders from the Philadelphia area.  In February 2021, a court ordered that the facility be shut down based on a reported of physical and sexual abuse of inmates. In December 2022, Pennsylvania Attorney General released the results of a grand jury investigation confirming allegations of widespread systemic abuse of inmates at DCJDC. The report found that staff at DCJDC routinely physically and sexually abused inmates with little or no supervision from administrators at the facilities.

Former inmates at DCJDC who were the victim of physical and/or sexual abuse or assault are now filing civil lawsuits against the state of Pennsylvania for the injuries suffered during their time at DCJDC.

Philadelphia Sex Abuse Settlements and Verdicts

$550,000 Verdict: A 15-year-old female alleged that she suffered emotional distress after being sexually molested by the City of Philadelphia police officer in the course and scope of his employment with the city. The plaintiff contended that the police department had previous knowledge of the officer’s sexual problems and of his sexual advances to women he met while working. The plaintiff further contended that she did nothing to encourage the codefendant’s actions and that the molestation was unprovoked. The case went to trial in federal court and the jury found in favor of the plaintiff.

$25,000 Settlement: A 13-year-old male alleged that he was sexually molested and abuse by an employee at the defendant’s summer camp in Philadelphia. The plaintiff alleged that the camp employee attempted to perform sexual acts without the plaintiff’s consent and he claimed that the camp was negligent in their hiring and supervision of the employee.

$290,000 Settlement: a 7-year-old female student of defendant Southeast Delco School District, reportedly suffered emotional distress, when she was sexually abused by Paul Hochschwender, a teacher at the school. The lawsuit alleged that the school and its administrators knew that the teacher similarly sexually molested and assaulted other young female students at the school, but they failed to take action. They alleged the school system was negligent and supervisory liable for failing to remove the teacher from his position, to notify the police, and to notify parents.

$85,000 Verdict: A five-year-old male suffered psychological damages when he was molested by a deliveryman, who was in the scope of his employment with the defendant medical supply company at the time of the molestation. The plaintiff contended that the defendant was negligent for hiring the deliveryman because he had a past conviction for corrupting the morals of a minor.

$250,000 Settlement: The plaintiff, a female, was sexually abused by her teacher at a public school in Philadelphia. She sued the school system claiming that they had knowledge of the teacher’s sexual misconduct based on complaints from prior students.

Contact Us About Philadelphia Sex Abuse Lawsuits

If you are thinking about bringing a sexual abuse lawsuit in Philadelphia, contact our sex abuse lawyers today for free consultation. Contact us online or call us at 800-553-8082.



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