You Don’t Have to Suffer Alone – Justice is Available
Clergy sexual abuse is one of the most despicable forms of abuse imaginable, right up there with nursing homeabuse. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church has been deeply implicated in clergy sexual abuse in the United States as well as throughout the world, but it is not the only church to face sex abuse cases. Clergy abuse must be stopped by any means necessary if we don’t want the abuse to continue, including criminal charges and civil claims.
Most clergy abuse is committed against minors (under age 18). Legally, it falls within the jurisdiction of personal injury law (as well as criminal law). And there is no reason you cannot pursue justice against clergy members or a religious authority, such as a church. At Edwards Pottinger Law Firm, our clergy abuse attorneys will fight both intelligently and aggressively for your right to full compensation.
Suing the Church
Catholic priests typically don’t have any money (after all, they have taken vows of poverty), and clergy from other churches are not necessarily affluent either. So what good is it to bother suing clergy? The answer, at least in economic terms, is “not much.” But can you sue the church? The answer to this question is not perfectly straightforward.
- Vicarious liability: Employers are automatically liable for the financial consequences of the wrongful acts of their employees, even if the employer itself was not at fault. Since clergy are generally employees of the church, you should be able to sue them based on vicarious liability, right? Not necessarily, unfortunately, because there is a loophole – the employer is not vicariously liable if the employee was acting “outside the scope” of his employment at the time of the offense, even if he was on-duty. Courts in many jurisdictions have ruled that sexual abuse is outside the scope of a clergy member’s employment.
- Direct liability: If vicarious liability does not apply, you can still try to hold the church liable on the basis of its own negligence or other wrongful conduct. Maybe a church failed to conduct a background check on their priest before it hired him. Or maybe the church covered up previous abuse committed by the same priest, and transferred him to your parish, where he then abused you. There may be further possible bases of liability.
Diocese Bankruptcy and Suing the Vatican Itself
The Catholic Church, to name the most prominent example, has paid our literally billions of dollars to clergy abuse victims. Some of its dioceses (administrative subdivisions) have declared bankruptcy, however, leaving victims in a difficult position. Some people, including us, have argued that the Vatican itself should be held liable for abuse committed by Catholic clergy anywhere in the world.
Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that any abuse victim will receive a dime from the Vatican, unless the abuse occurred within Vatican City itself. That is because the Vatican enjoys the political status of an independent country, and it is therefore not within the jurisdiction of either Italian or U.S. courts. Even if a judgment was issued, the money couldn’t be collected unless the Vatican voluntarily chose to pay.
Settling Out of Court
You don’t have to file a lawsuit to reach an out-of-court settlement; moreover, filing a lawsuit doesn’t necessarily terminate settlement negotiations. Settlement negotiations can continue right up until a final judgment is issued – even during an appeal. The problem is that if you try to negotiate yourself, you will probably be facing expert negotiators who know the applicable law better than you do. Let us do the negotiating for you.
The Statute of Limitations Deadline
The statute of limitations sets the deadline by which you must file a sex abuse lawsuit. If you miss the deadline, it will be difficult to even negotiate a private settlement – why should the church bother to negotiate with you if you cannot even sue them to force the money out of them? If you miss the deadline, your bargaining leverage will be faint. Generally, the deadline is two or three years after the act, but many states extend the deadline for minors.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What does a grand jury do?
A grand jury is a group of people who decide whether to issue criminal charges or an indictment against a criminal suspect, after examining evidence. A prosecutor is present, but there is no judge present, and the proceedings are secret. A grand jury cannot convict the suspect of a crime. Grand juries are reserved for serious felonies, and many states do not even use them.
Are you legally bound to keep my secrets unless I give you permission to reveal them?
The attorney-client relationship is structured by certain legal standards that apply to any attorney. One of these standards is the attorney’s obligation of confidentiality. We wouldn’t be allowed to reveal your secrets even if we received a court order demanding that we do so. Your secrets are safe with us.
Can my child file a lawsuit in his own name, or does someone else have to do it for him?
In most jurisdiction, a minor cannot file a sexual assault or abuse lawsuit in his own name. The court must appoint a guardian to file the lawsuit on behalf of the child, and it usually appoints a parent. Any proceeds from a judgment might be held in trust for the child until he turns 18.
What kind of compensation might I be entitled to?
If you win, you may be entitled to:
- Compensation for your intangible psychological damages at the very least. These might add up to more than you think, especially if you were a child when the abuse occurred.
- Compensation for economic losses such as the cost of psychological counseling.
- Medical care, if you were injured or otherwise required care due to your abuse.
- Lost earnings, if these losses were a consequence of the abuse
Schedule a Free Consultation Today
If you or your loved one is a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, contact Edwards Pottinger Law Firm today, by calling 800-400-1098 or by filling out our online form, to set up a free consultation with our clergy abuse lawyers who will discuss your case and answer your questions. Of course, even during a free consultation, attorney-client confidentiality applies, and we will be bound to keep your secrets forever. And remember – you will owe us nothing unless we win your case.