Washington DC Sex Abuse Lawsuits and Settlements

This page is about Washington DC sexual abuse lawsuits. This page will look at the process of filing sex abuse lawsuits in Washington DC and review the new laws related to sex abuse civil suits. We will also discuss average settlement amounts and jury payouts in DC sex abuse cases and look at recent verdicts and settlements.

Victims of sexual abuse or sexual assault can bring civil lawsuits and get monetary compensation for the emotional damage resulting from the abuse. New laws in Washington DC have made it easier for clergy abuse and other sex abuse victims to seek justice in the civil courts, even decades after the abuse occurred.

News & Updates

May 1, 2024:  In a new federal court lawsuit filed in the District of Columbia, a man alleges that he was abused by a D.C. PE school teacher.

Plaintiff first met the teacher while Plaintiff was in third grade. The teacher allegedly began grooming the plaintiff in third grade in 1993.  Class grooming behavior, he initially displayed kindness towards Plaintiff, offering him considerable attention. He would frequently gaze at Plaintiff and inquire about his plans after school. During PE class, Defendant Roe would sometimes lift up Plaintiff’s shirt and feel Plaintiff’s body, saying he wanted to check Plaintiff’s body. Soon, he would lift up Plaintiff’s shirt and feel his body while in the stairwell. The family complained to the school and got nowhere.  At some point, while Plaintiff was in fifth grade, the teacher took him to a bathroom in the basement of the school and grabbed his genitals.

Plaintiff claims the school had a practice of ineffective management and hiring unauthorized personnel like Defendant Roe, failing to ensure proper certifications for teachers and staff. This negligence, along with the deliberate indifference of D.C. and its administrative officers, contributed to John Doe’s injuries.

The plaintiff paints a picture of a school system that allowed a policy where teachers could isolate and abuse students without investigation failed to train staff to address such issues and ignored complaints of abuse.

This negligence led to severe emotional and psychological harm to John Doe, depriving him of educational opportunities and causing ongoing distress. The complaint seeks damages of at least $10,000,000 from D.C. for violating Title IX and for gross negligence.

Definition of Sexual Abuse in Washington DC

Under DC law, any non-consensual sexual touching or contact made with the intent of sexual gratification is considered sexual abuse or sexual assault. The criminal acts of sexual assault and abuse are defined in DC Code §§ 22-3002 et seq., which defines four different degrees of offenses. In the context of a civil lawsuit, sexual abuse is referred to as the tort of sexual battery. It generally has the same definition and meaning as criminal offenses.

For sexual contact to meet the definition of sexual battery, two essential elements must be present:

(1) sexual intent, and

(2) lack of consent.

The sexual intent element is established by showing that the defendant engage in sexual contact with the clear and express purposes of sexual gratification or arousal. An innocent or accidental sexual touching does not amount to sexual battery.

The second element is the absence of consent. Children do not have the legal capacity to give consent to any sexual touching. This means that any intentional sexual contact with a minor by an adult lacks consent and qualifies as sexual battery.

Filing a Civil Lawsuit for Sex Abuse in Washington DC

DC law enables victims of sex abuse to bring civil lawsuits and seek financial compensation. A victim has a right to file a civil lawsuit at any time, and it is not contingent on whether the victim pressed criminal charges or whether the abuser was convicted. Even if the victim never reported the abuse to the police when it happened, they can still file a civil lawsuit.

Victims can bring civil lawsuits for sexual battery as long as they have the courage to testify under oath about the facts of the alleged sexual abuse or assault. The victim’s testimony can also be bolstered by additional evidence such as medical records or fact testimony from other witnesses.

If you file a sexual abuse lawsuit in Washington DC, the civil case will be public record. However, victims who file sex abuse lawsuits can keep their names and identity confidential. DC’s court rules allow victims in these sensitive cases to use “Jane Doe” or initials in the court filings for privacy purposes. This means that people cannot go on the internet and easily find out the details of your case.

Getting Money in Maine 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 only way to get actual financial compensation 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 Jack was a student at a private school in Washington DC. In 4th grade, Jack’s teacher, Mr. Jones, sexually abused him over the year. The school had previously received numerous warnings indicating that Mr. Jones may be a sexual predator, including prior allegations of abuse by students and incidents of highly inappropriate behavior. Fifteen years later, Mr. Jones is finally arrested and convicted for sexual abuse of another student. Jack can file a civil lawsuit against the private school for negligently failing to investigate Mr. Jones and prevent him from abusing others like Jack.

Statute of Limitations for DC Sex Abuse Civil Lawsuits

In 2019, Washington DC amended its statute of limitations law (DC Code § 12-301) to extend the deadline for victims of child sex abuse seeking to file civil lawsuits years after the abuse occurs. Under the new law, if the victim was under age 35 when the sexual abuse occurred, they have until their 40th birthday to file a civil lawsuit. If the victim was 35 years or older when the abuse occurred, they have five years from the date of the last abuse to file a civil lawsuit.

However, it is essential to note that this new law does NOT apply retroactively. Currently, DC’s newly expanded statute of limitations for civil sex abuse lawsuits only applies if the sexual abuse or assault occurred after May 2, 2021. When the new law was passed in 2019, victims of past sexual abuse were given a limited 2-year window to bring a civil lawsuit for prior sexual abuse without being subject to any limitation period. That window closed in May 2021.

Victims of sexual abuse that occurred before May 2021 can still potentially bring a civil lawsuit, but it would be subject to the prior statute of limitations law in DC. Under the old law, victims of child sex abuse had until their 25th birthday to file suit.

7 Factors to Calculate Sex Abuse Settlement Amounts in Washington DC

The settlement value of Washington DC sexual abuse lawsuits against third parties such as schools, churches, or corporations is driven by a handful of different factors. Each factor is highly case-specific, and how it pushes or pulls the potential settlement value of the claim depends on the circumstances of the case. Listed below are the factors that impact sex abuse lawsuit settlement values.

  1. Severity of Abuse: The severity, type, and nature of sexual abuse are also a major driving force in the settlement value. If the case involves particularly repulsive and violent abuse, such as forcible rape, it will be worth more. Vulnerable victims such as children also drive up the case value. The frequency and duration of the abuse also come into play here. Cases involving very young victims, violence, or particularly repulsive acts or circumstances will always have a higher value. Any facts or circumstances that might provoke an emotional response from a jury make a case very valuable at the settlement table.
  2. Medical and Therapy Costs: The past, current, and future medical expenses related to the abuse, including therapy and counseling costs, are considered when calculating the settlement amount in a child sex abuse lawsuit.  These numbers can get very large projected over a lifetime.
  3. Age and Vulnerability: The survivor’s age at the time of the abuse and their vulnerability or dependency on the abuser will influence the settlement calculation.  Younger children who have profound emotional pain and suffering from the experience generally get higher settlement amounts than teenagers or adults, all things being equal.
  4. Duration and Frequency of Abuse: The length and frequency of the abuse can be considered in assessing the impact on the survivor’s life and the damages caused.
  5. Evidence and Witness Testimonies: The strength of evidence, such as documents, testimonies, and expert opinions, will influence the settlement amount. One of the most critical factors driving the settlement value of a DC sex abuse lawsuit is how strong the evidence proving the abuse is. If there is compelling evidence to substantiate the abuse allegations made by the plaintiff – which can often be done by the plaintiff being a compelling witness –  the case will have a drastically higher settlement value right out the gate. Why? Because strong evidence means the defendant will probably lose if the case goes to trial.  Defendants settle cases to avoid a loss at trial.
  6. Defendant’s Ability to Pay: As discussed above, this is the most significant factor in many cases and is why most sexual abuse lawsuits in DC have an institutional defendant. A sex abuse civil lawsuit needs a viable negligence claim against a third-party defendant with deep pockets, such as a school or church.  The financial capacity of the accused individual or institution to pay the settlement will play a decisive role in the ultimate value of a claim.
  7. 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 DC sex abuse lawyers get higher settlement amounts for their clients.

Washington DC Sexual Abuse Verdicts and Settlements

Below are summaries of prior settlements and verdicts from DC civil sex abuse lawsuits.

  • $1,70,000 Verdict: A Korean woman claimed that she was sexually assaulted, beaten, and choked, suffering numerous injuries to her head, face, and ribs, when the defendant assaulted her in the food store where she worked. Although it is unclear from the verdict report, the food store where the victim worked was presumably named as a third-party defendant for negligently failing to provide security.
  • $1,300,000 Verdict: The plaintiff alleged that a DC police officer sexually assaulted her. She claimed that the officer placed her under arrest for driving without a license, offered to release her in exchange for her performance of a sex act, directed her to a secluded location, and proceeded to threaten and sexually assault the plaintiff inside her vehicle. Before the case went to trial, the officer was convicted of sexual assault in another incident.  It is hard to imagine why the defendant did not settle this claim before trial, knowing their police officer was a bad actor.
  • $185,000 Settlement: A 21-year-old unemployed Austrian female suffered posttraumatic stress disorder when she was sexually assaulted at the defendant apartment building where she resided after the co-defendant pool service company allowed the assailant into the defendant’s premises. The plaintiff contended that the defendant failed to provide adequate security and that the defendant was in breach of its contract.
  • $2,011,352 Default Judgement: Plaintiff alleged that the male defendant forced his way into the plaintiff’s apartment and sexually assaulted her. The defendant had followed the plaintiff to her apartment and forced his way in. The plaintiff contended that the defendant pulled off her clothes, assaulted and battered her, and forced her to commit cunnilingus and fellatio against her will. There was apparently no third-party defendant and a default judgment was entered against the abuser.  So this is a classic example of what we are talking about.  The victim
  • $500,000 Settlement: A 22-year-old female was sexually assaulted in her apartment. The intruder climbed up a fire escape, entered an unlocked window, robbed, raped, and threatened the plaintiff. She filed suit against the apartment building for lack of proper security. The building had no outside lights in the rear, and the fire escape was also not rigged with an alarm and had been used for numerous crimes in the previous four years.

Why are there no Washington DC clergy abuse settlements on this list?  Clergy abuse claims  often settle early in the process with the settlement offer contingent on strict confidentiality language.

Negligent Security Sexual Assault Lawsuits

You will note that some of the verdicts above are negligent security sexual assault lawsuits. In some cases, the victims may have been harmed due to a lack of proper security, allowing for an additional avenue of legal recourse. This is where negligent security lawsuits come into play.

Negligent security is a legal concept that comes under the umbrella of premises liability. This involves the obligations of property owners and operators to ensure a reasonably safe environment. In the context of sexual assault, negligent security lawsuits can be brought when the assault could have been prevented had there been proper security measures in place.

In Washington D.C., the law stipulates that property owners have a legal duty to protect visitors from foreseeable harm. This duty extends to preventing foreseeable sexual assaults. The owners must provide adequate security measures including but not limited to adequate lighting, security personnel, functioning locks, and surveillance systems.

If a sexual assault happens on their premises due to negligent security, the property owner or operator may be held liable. This could apply to various places including apartments, hotels, parking garages, shopping centers, colleges, and even workplaces.

To succeed in a negligent security lawsuit in Washington D.C., the plaintiff must prove a few things. Firstly, they must establish that the defendant owed them a duty of care, i.e., the defendant was responsible for maintaining security. Secondly, they must show that this duty was breached, either through the absence of security measures or ineffective ones. Thirdly, they must demonstrate that the breach directly led to the sexual assault. Finally, they must prove they suffered damages, physical, psychological, or otherwise, due to the assault.

Contact Us About Washington DC Sex Abuse Lawsuits

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

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