West Virginia Sex Abuse Lawsuits

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


WV Personal Injury Law and Settlements

What is Sex Abuse in West Virginia?

For purposes of a civil lawsuit, sexual abuse and sexual assault have the same definition in West Virginia as they do in the criminal law context. Under West Virginia law, sexual abuse is defined as intentional sexual contact or touching (either directly or through clothing) 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.

Civil Lawsuits for Sex Abuse in West Virginia

Under West Virginia state law, individuals who have experienced sexual abuse or assault have the option to initiate a civil lawsuit to pursue financial compensation. Keep in mind that abuse victims can pursue a civil lawsuit irrespective of whether they have filed criminal charges, and this legal recourse remains available even if the abuse was never reported or disclosed at the time it occurred.

To initiate a civil lawsuit for sexual abuse, victims are only required to be willing to provide sworn testimony regarding the details of the sexual abuse or assault. This testimony can be reinforced by additional evidence, such as medical records demonstrating physical injuries resulting from the assault. Moreover, testimony from other witnesses who can attest to the factual aspects of the case may also be presented.

Going After Third Parties in West Virginia 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.

Here is an illustrative example of how suing a third party often works. Let’s say Jane experienced sexual abuse by her high school teacher, Bob. Although Jane did not disclose the abuse, the school had received other reports and complaints about Bob’s inappropriate conduct with students, which it failed to investigate. In this case, Jane could bring a sexual abuse lawsuit against the school, alleging negligence in its failure to investigate Bob and protect Jane and other students from potential harm.

West Virginia Statute of Limitation for Sex Abuse Lawsuits

A statute of limitations is basically a strict legal deadline for how long someone has to file a lawsuit. If the lawsuit is not filed before the statute of limitations passes, the plaintiffs lose their right to sue forever. While other states have recently changed their laws to make it easier for victims of sexual abuse (particularly child sex abuse victims) to file civil lawsuits, West Virginia’s SOL for sex abuse cases remains fairly restrictive.

If the victim is an adult (over age 18) when the abuse occurred, WV’s general 2-year statute of limitation applies. In cases involving child sexual abuse, however, the child victim has until their 36th birthday to file a civil lawsuit. W. Va. Code Ann. § 55-2-15 (2016). That SOL can also be extended by a 4-year “discovery rule” in cases of repressed memories.

In 2020, West Virginia passed on a new lookback or revival law that allowed victims of child sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits for abuse that occurred decades in the past. The revival law created a 4-year limited window for victims to bring old claims. The revival law was somewhat pointless, however, because it only applied to claims against the individual abusers, not claims against third parties like schools or churches.

West Virginia Sex Abuse Verdicts & Settlement

Below are verdicts and settlements from recent West Virginia sexual abuse lawsuits.

$4,500,000 Settlement: Settlement resolved the claims of three female students who were sexually molested by their 47-year-old male teacher. They sued both the teacher and the school district. The plaintiffs contended that the teacher forced them to engage in sexual conduct, sexually molested them. The plaintiffs further contended that the school district failed to ensure its schools properly hired, trained, and supervised their employees with access to minor students, failed to prevent the sexual abuse of its students, and failed to provide a safe environment for its students.

$20,500 Verdict: A minor female suffered emotional distress when she was molested by another minor while they were under the care of the defendant day care center. The minor nonparty stuck a pen into the plaintiff’s rectum. The plaintiff contended that the defendant was negligent in failing to proper supervise and leaving the minors unattended.

$5,350,000 Verdict: A 23-year-old female alleged that she was sexually molested by the male defendant physician at a nonparty medical facility where she presented with complaints of a possible kidney stone. The plaintiff contended that the defendant’s actions were malicious with the intent to harm, that he negligently put his hand down her pants, and that he failed to provide the proper standard of care. The defendant denied liability and disputed the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff’s spouse filed a claim for loss of services and received an award.

Confidential Settlement: The Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston reached a confidential settlement with a former alter boy who alleged that he was sexually assaulted by ex-Bishop Michael Bransfield. This was not the first time Bransfield had been accused of sexual abuse.

Contact Us About a West Virginia Sex Abuse Lawsuit

If you have sexual abuse lawsuits in West Virginia, call our lawyers today at 800-553-8082 for a free consultation, or contact us online.


Contact Information