Articles Posted in Sexual Abuse

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When negotiating Florida sexual abuse settlements, one must exercise great care and use precise language. Failure to do so may unintentionally absolve other responsible parties of future accountability. West Palm Beach sexual abuse attorneys

Recently, defense attorneys for Britain’s Prince Andrew, attempting to get a federal civil sexual abuse lawsuit tossed in New York, cited a prior settlement agreement signed in Florida. The prior settlement agreement in question was signed by alleged sexual assault victim, Virginia Giuffre (who has agreed to make her identity public) Andrew’s one-time associate, Jeffrey Epstein. The latter was a jet-setting financier with many high-profile friends who died in 2019 while awaiting a criminal trial for decades of alleged sex trafficking of minors – including Giuffre.

At issue in the pending civil litigation of Giuffre v. Prince Andrew is a $500,000 Florida sexual abuse settlement agreement Giuffre and Epstein signed in 2009. The question is whether it released others – like Andrew – whose purported sexual encounters with underage girls were allegedly arranged and/or facilitated by Epstein.

The prince has vehemently denied Giuffre’s allegations that he sexually abused her when she was a minor. Regardless, his attorneys argue that he’s shielded from civil litigation by that 13-year-old settlement agreement because it contained a provision indicating Giuffre would not bring any future claims against other “potential defendants.” Continue reading

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There are an estimated 39 million survivors of child sexual assault in the U.S. today. Of those, nearly one-third never tell a soul what happened to them. For many others, the truth isn’t revealed until many years later, often when they are adults who more fully understand what was done to them. Unfortunately, not all of our laws have caught up with this reality.

In Florida, survivors of sexual assault typically have a 4-year window in which to pursue a civil claim against the institutions whose negligence allowed the abuse to occur. After four years, the statute of limitations time-bars the claim. If the abuse was ongoing, the statute of limitations clock wouldn’t start until the last instance of abuse. There are a few exceptions, though, which is why it’s important if you’ve been sexually molested, abused, or assaulted – even if it was many years ago – that you discuss your legal options with an attorney.Palm Beach sexual assault lawyer

(Note that the statute of limitations in criminal sexual assault cases is longer: Within 7 years after the victim turns 18; within 4 years of the time a victim discovers the link between a related injury and the abuse; within 4 years of the time a victim abandons/stops depending on the abuser. In 2020, lawmakers passed “Donna’s Law,” which removes the statute of limitations for criminally prosecuting acts of sexual battery against children under 18. However, the law isn’t retroactive, and is only applicable to crimes committed on or after July 1, 2020.) 

The strict nature of the statute of limitations on civil sexual assault cases was underscored in a case before the Florida Supreme Court last year, R.R. v. New Life Community Church of CMA. In that case, the Florida Supreme Court held that the statute of limitations time-barred two women from pursuing a sexual assault civil lawsuit against a Florida church and other defendants over allegations the women were sexually abused as children by a church employee.

The trial and appellate courts had already ruled against the two plaintiffs, who reported they were molested as young children by the church worker between 1996 and 2005. The worker, currently in prison on unrelated child porn charges, isn’t a party to the case. Instead, the defendants include the church, the man’s parents (also church employees) and others. One of the women said she was molested between the ages of 4 and 11. Her attorney would later say she didn’t recognize abuse had occurred because she thought she was being punished for bad behavior. She therefore didn’t tell her parents until after she was an adult. The other woman alleged she was molested once when she was 4. She told her parents about it shortly after it happened.

Both the trial court and the 5th District Court of Appeal held that the statute of limitations on their claims had already passed. However, the Florida Supreme Court took up the matter because, as our Palm Beach sexual abuse attorneys can explain, other appellate courts ruling on similar cases had reached different conclusions. Specifically, the 3rd and 4th District Courts of Appeal had held that civil sexual abuse lawsuits filed by those who were minors at the time of the abuse don’t accrue until the minor reaches the age of majority OR “until a proper representative knew or should have known of the minor’s claims.” Continue reading

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Disney Cruise Lines is facing a Florida sexual assault lawsuit after the family of a 3-year-old girl alleges she was targeted by another child in the ship’s day care. The plaintiffs say the day care was poorly-staffed with employees who weren’t properly trained. The company denies the allegations and expressed their intent to the Orlando Sentinel to vigorously defend against them in court.South Florida sexual assault lawyer

As our West Palm Beach sexual assault lawyers can explain, cruise ship sexual assaults have been an ongoing issue that has rightly garnered much media scrutiny the last several years. Civil litigation in these cases argue premises liability and general negligence, though there are special considerations because of the fact it happened at sea.

Claimants in the most recent case are arguing children aboard the ship’s daycare should have been separated according to age groups to protect the younger kids. The 3-year-old, they say, should have been grouped with infants, toddlers, and other kids under 5. Staffers, they say, should have been better trained about how to prevent and react to improper touching of a child.

Cruise Ship Sexual Assaults

Cruise ships are often referred to as “floating cities,” with movie theaters, restaurants, private quarters – and crime. U.S. government data shows that sexual assaults are the most commonly reported crimes on cruise ships. It’s been revealed also that many victims of sexual assault aboard cruise ships are minors. One report by Congress in 2013 indicated one-third of sexual assaults on cruise ships involve a victim under the age of 18. Continue reading

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Ongoing testimony of sickening abuse of U.S. Olympic gymnasts by an organization doctor has led to demands for significant change in sports organizations. Collegiate-level sports organizations should take heed, especially as a new study by the non-profit Lauren’s Kids revealed 1 in 4 current and former college athletes surveyed reported experiencing sexual assault or sexual harassment by someone on campus who was in a position of power. That is compared to 1 in 10 in the general student population. Palm Beach sexual abuse attorney

In other words, college athletes were 2.5 times more likely to encounter sexual abuse than their peers.

Coaches, it was indicated, were the most commonly-identified group of abusers.

USA Today reported this fact with a number of anecdotes from high-profile cases in recent years. Among those: Continue reading

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Survivors of sexual abuse and assault have endured more pain and mental anguish than many others experience in a lifetime. Legal accountability for those responsible can be an important part of the healing process. It’s important that if you’re considering pursuing a civil sexual assault case in Florida that you hire an injury attorney who is experienced in handling these types of complex claims. It is a specific area of law that should only be considered in careful consultation with a compassionate injury lawyer who is prepared to offer legal guidance and support throughout the process. Palm Beach sexual assault lawyer

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sexual violence is not only prevalent, it’s preventable. Approximately 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys suffer sexual abuse before they turn 18.

Many survivors of sexual abuse and assault know that by reporting what happened to law enforcement, they are opening the doors to a criminal case and possible criminal charges. What many don’t know is that they may also have grounds to pursue a personal injury lawsuit in the civil justice system.

It is incumbent on schools, sports organizations, religious groups, nursing homes, property owners, workplaces and other entities to create protective environments that are safe and routinely monitored. Proactive sexual harassment and violence prevention plans are essential. When these entities fail to exercise reasonable care and risks the safety of vulnerable guests, students, residents, or members, they can be held legally responsible in civil court.

Our dedicated South Florida injury lawyers have years of experience successfully pursuing justice and meaningful recovery on behalf of sexual assault survivors. Continue reading

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Two professional dancers have filed a sexual assault lawsuit accusing a former dance teacher of sexually assaulting and sexually abusing them. The teacher’s wife, a renowned ballerina, is alleged to have participated in some of that abuse. Palm Beach sexual assault lawyer

Although the federal lawsuit was filed in Nevada, it stems in part from alleged incidents that occurred in Florida when one of the accusers was a 13-year-old dance student in Tampa, FL.

As our Palm Beach sexual assault attorneys can explain, this civil case can proceed despite a stalled criminal investigation by authorities in Tampa years ago. That’s because the proof burden in civil claims stemming from instances of sexual assault differ from those in criminal cases. Additionally, many civil sexual assault claims target third parties, and not the attacker directly. This case does directly name the attacker, while identifying his wife as a “non-party co-conspirator.” Continue reading

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It was reported recently that a group of child abuse victims are suing their ex-foster parents as well as the state’s child welfare system for more than $25 million. The foster parents were reportedly in the process of adopting several of the children, who were placed with them in Alabama, when they moved to South Florida. The couple was charged with multiple counts of child abuse, sexual abuse, rape, human trafficking, sexual torture and other sexual crimes. The man pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. The woman is awaiting trial. Florida sexual assault lawyer

The civil lawsuit is against the state’s Department of Human Resources as well as their former foster parents. Plaintiffs say the agency and its employees received complaints about alleged abuse and neglect, but failed to act, resulting in ongoing sexual assaults, physical pain and suffering and emotional trauma. A sexual assault attorney for the victims told reporters he wants to ensure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. Part of what plaintiffs are seeking is reform of the child welfare system.

As our Palm Beach sexual assault lawyers know that the successful are sexual assault lawsuits against child welfare agencies depends on numerous case-specific factors.

Some of the elements we’ll look at are:

  • Did the case workers make all scheduled visits?
  • Did they conduct proper investigations when they certified the foster parents?
  • Did they check on any complaints that occurred?

Continue reading

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Schools are supposed to be safe places. But childhood sexual abuse has long been a scourge, and nowhere is fully protected. Data released last year by the U.S. Department of Education revealed sexual violence at K-12 schools rose by about 50 percent in a single recent school year, from 9,600 in 2015-2016 to 15,000 in 2017-2018.South Florida sexual abuse attorney

While discourse around sexual assault in the education world has historically revolved around college campuses (where 1 in 5 women report experiencing sexual violence), our South Florida sexual abuse attorneys know the problem isn’t confined to those locations, or even to older students.

Exacerbating the problem is that administrators in K-12 schools are more likely to be unprepared or unaware of their duties under state and federal law when it comes to handling allegations of sexual assault. Students may not know who to tell and some have even been punished for coming forward.

If your child has suffered sexual abuse at school in Florida, it’s important to understand that it’s not just a criminal investigation that will ensue, but that you can often pursue civil penalties as well. For example, virtually all courts recognize that a child abuse reporting statute (in Florida, F.S. 39.201) establishes a duty to children, the breach of which can be the basis for a civil lawsuit for damages. So if a school employee learns of abuse and fails to alert proper authorities, the school district and the staffer can be held liable in civil court. Continue reading

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It’s estimated that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will suffer sexual abuse by an adult by the time they turn 18. For too many, these traumatic incidents burden them as secrets carried with them into adulthood, while abusers walk free and the organizations that enabled them are not held accountable in criminal or civil court. In recent years, so-called “lookback window” laws could change that. South Florida sexual assault lawyer

A proposed Florida lookback window law would give thousands of sexual abuse victims in Florida a renewed opportunity to pursue justice. It failed this past legislative session, but lawmakers are proposing to try again next session. More than a dozen states have passed lookback window laws in recent years allowing victims of childhood sexual assault to pursue litigation against their attackers and others responsible, even decades after the abuse ended.

This most recent session, identical bills SB 946 and HB 23 would have created a one-year look-back window in Florida. Sponsors noted that 75 percent of child sexual abuse victims don’t tell anyone for at least one year. Roughly 50 percent haven’t told anyone after five years. Many are silent for a decade or more, as they grapple with a confusing mix of shame, embarrassment and pain. By the time they’re ready just to talk about it, the statute of limitations has expired. Continue reading

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As West Palm Beach sexual assault lawyers can explain, many civil sexual abuse cases are filed against employers because predators too often gain access to victims while acting in their professional capacity. Claims of negligent hiring stem from Florida courts’ recognition that employers can be held liable for their employees’ willful negligence or even criminal misconduct (including sexual assault) if the employer knew or should have known prior to hiring that the worker posed a possible threat to the public. West Palm Beach sexual assault attorneys

When a company fails to properly vet its employees, this can be a breach of the duty of reasonable care owed to customers, clients, visitors, patients, students, etc. Thorough background checks may be especially important when the job is one of significant trust or involves serving vulnerable populations. Examples may include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Teachers
  • Police officers
  • Medical professionals
  • Nursing home staff
  • Hotel staffers
  • School sports organizations

A claim of negligent hiring asserts employer liability for failure to exercise due diligence in hiring someone, who in turn goes on to injure someone in the course of their employment. This sort of claim isn’t limited to sexual assault cases. For example, a trucking company that fails to check truckers’ past driving records could be fairly accused of negligent hiring if a driver with a spotty driving history later causes a serious crash.

Related torts include negligent retention (employer was negligent in continuing to employ the person) and negligent supervision (employer failed to adequately supervise employee). For each, plaintiffs must prove that the employer’s lapse proximately caused the plaintiff’s injury. Negligent security is another possibly related tort. Negligent security is when abuse or assault occurs on the premises of a property owner/manager that failed to provide an adequate level of security. Continue reading

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