Sexual Abuse Lawsuits Brought Before The California Supreme Court to Increase Institutional Liability

Several lawmakers have expressed their discontent regarding current statutes of limitations in sexual assault cases. As a result, those seeking legal reform have begun to scrutinize the current limits of institutional liability in California. Subsequently, the California Supreme Court is currently in the process of reviewing two cases that have the potential to extend the already established statute of limitations and increase institutional liability.

Thursday’s case, that was presented to the California Supreme Court in San Francisco, regards a lawsuit that has been filed against the Roman Catholic Church. Accordingly, six brothers have alleged that they are still suffering from the actions of a sexually abusive priest that took place decades ago. Though the current statute of limitations has expired for their particular situation, they have made an argument that the law gives victims three years to sue after realizing the abuse caused their psychological troubles.

According to court documents and testimonies, the six brothers claim to have all been molested by the same priest while attending a parish in Hayward, part of the Diocese of Oakland. While representatives of the brothers acknowledged that the priest admitted to the molestation charges in depositions, he was never charged. Subsequently, the diocese was forced to settle several previous lawsuits that involved the alleged sex offender.

To this day, each of the six brothers claim to be suffering from psychological effects that they have sustained during their molestation decades ago. However, as their attorney suggested, they did not understand until 2006 that molestations that occurred during the early 1970s were responsible for their mental health troubles. These complications have proven to be a significant burden on the brothers and have allegedly interfered with the quality of their lives in a profound way. Subsequently, their current case is an attempt to seek compensation for their constant suffering. “These are people whose lives suffered,” their attorney said. “They have struggled in ways you can’t imagine.”

However, after hearing the case presented by the six brothers, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said she was concerned that the victims were relying on “vague language” in a state law to get around legal deadlines. “We don’t read vague language to revive lapsed claims,” Cantil-Sakauye said. It appeared as if the California Supreme Court was reluctant to give adult victims of child molestation the right to sue decades later those who knew of the abuse and failed to stop it.

In a similar case seeking to test the limits of institutional liability in California, the Supreme Court heard a lawsuit filed against the William S. Hart Union High School District for hiring a high school counselor with a history of child molestation. According to the plaintiffs, the entire school district should be held accountable for negligently hiring and observing an abusive counselor.

That suit charged that the district knew or should have known that Roselyn Hubbell, the counselor, had sexually molested minors when it hired her to work at Golden Valley High School in Santa Clarita. Several unidentified employes of the same district had reason to believe that Roselyn Hubbell had a history of sexual molestation. However, their neglect to report the lewd behavior exhibited by Hubbell placed unsuspecting children in harms way.

According to Plaintiff representatives, public entities such as schools should be held vicariously liable for the harboring of child molesters. One such representative acknowledged that “when parents send their children to school as they are legally required to do, they should and do expect that the school and its employees will take steps to guard against the retention of child molesters as teachers and counselors who have access to and power over their children.”

Justice Carol A. Corrigan said schools must “make sure students are properly educated and that they are safe.” A district’s responsibility is “to make sure the teachers are not molesting the kids,” she said.

Rulings regarding both of these cases are expected within 90 days and may have overwhelming ramifications on the future of institutional liability.

Do I Have a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit?

The trial lawyers at The Senators (Ret.) Firm, LLP have decades of experience navigating through complex legislative and regulatory issues and litigating high stakes cases all over the nation. Our law firm focuses on the representation of plaintiffs in sexual abuse lawsuits. We are currently accepting new cases in all 50 states.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual abuse, you may be entitled to financial compensation. For a free case review, please click the link below or call toll free 24 hrs/day 1-(949) 557-5800.