The sweeping Pennsylvania grand jury report involving six Catholic dioceses operating in the state has drawn substantial attention to the problem of sexual abuse of children in these institutions. One Catholic group has responded by asking officials all over the country to investigate cases of sexual abuse involving public schools. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights wrote a letter asking for sexual abuse investigations to take a wider view. While this may seem like an attempt to distract from the misconduct tied to the Catholic church, it is undeniable that all schools, religious and secular, public and private, owe a duty to their students that includes the prevention of sexual abuse.
Choosing the right lawyer to represent you or a loved one in a sexual abuse case can be difficult. Because sexual abuse cases often result in large settlements or jury verdicts, there are many lawyers who advertise for these cases. However, just because a lawyer advertises for a certain type of case does not mean the lawyer is skilled or experienced in handling that type of case. In fact, there are no ethical rules which prohibit a lawyer from advertising that they handle sexual abuse cases even though they have never handled one before. Personal Injury and class actions lawyers often begin to advertise for these types of cases as soon as they read about them in the news. Their strategy sometimes is to sign up as many cases as possible and try to figure out how to the handle the cases, or else ship them off for a referral fee to a lawyer who focuses their practice on representing victims of sexual abuse.
In recent weeks there has been much discussion about a compensation fund that would be set up by the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania to pay victims of child sexual abuse. The idea of the fund comes at a time when the church is under fire by the recent statewide grand jury report. In the report, the grand jury recommended a change in the civil statute of limitations that would revive previously expired claims made by victims of child sexual abuse.