Articles Posted in Sexual Abuse

A lawsuit alleging childhood sexual abuse was filed yesterday in Du Page County, Illinois against Bill Gothard and the Institute of Basic Life Principles that he founded in 1961. The lawsuit filed by 10 women includes allegations of rape, molestation and sexual harassment. The allegations date back to at least 1992.

The statute of limitations will surely be an issue. For sexual abuse that occurred as early as 1992, the Illinois statute of limitations in effect for childhood sexual abuse is 735 ILCS 5/13-202.2 This 1991 version of the statute of limitations provides that an action for childhood sexual abuse must be commenced within 2 years of reaching 18 or 2 years from the date the person abused discovers the act of childhood sexual abuse occurred and that injury was caused by the childhood sexual abuse….“but in no event may an action for personal injury based on childhood sexual abuse be commenced more than 12 years after the person abused reaches the age of 18.” 735 ILCS 5/13-202.2

This means that if a person abused reaches the age of 30 prior to January 1, 1994, the 12 year statute of repose forever bars their claim. Illinois has amended the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse in 1994, 2003, and 2011. The 2011 version, which is currently in effect, increased the time to bring the action to 20 years after the person abused reaches 18. My blog of March 28, 2012 sets forth in detail the various statute of limitations deadlines of the 1991, 1994, 2003 and 2011 versions of the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse in Illinois.

Fixing liability on prior employers of known sexual abusers who withhold information of that abuse to subsequent employers where employee proceeds to sexually abuse additional minors has never been addressed by the Illinois high court. The Illinois Supreme Court in Doe-3 v. Mc Lean County Dist. 5, 973 N.E. 2d 880 (2012) addressed this issue head on. In Doe-3, the trail court dismissed action by two minor sexual abuse victims against prior school district employer of pedophile that alleged failure to disclose to subsequent employer of pedophile that he had been disciplined for “sexual harassment, sexual grooming, and/or sexual abuse.” The trial court found that prior school district had no duty to minor sexual abuse victims. The appellate court reversed the dismissal and the high court affirmed the appellate court’s holding albeit on different grounds.

The Supreme Court acknowledged that: “In Illinois an affirmative duty to aid or protect another against an unreasonable risk of physical harm arises only in the context of a legally recognized duty.” Doe-3, 973 N.E. 2d 880, 888; Simkus v. CSX Transportation, 965 N.E. 2d 1092 (Ill. Sup. Ct. 2012); and Iseberg v. Gross, 227 Ill. 2d 78, 87-88, 879 N.E. 2d 278 (2007). The Supreme Court noted that plaintiffs had not plead any of the recognized “special relationships”. The Doe-3 court stated: “Nevertheless, we find that plaintiffs have alleged circumstances which do give rise to a duty owed by defendants in this case.” 973 N.E. 2d 880, 889.

The issue the Doe-3 court dealt with encompasses a school districts’ duty to disclose prior history of sexual abuse by one of its teachers to a subsequent school district employer of that teacher. The court began its duty analysis observing: “…every person owes a duty of ordinary care to all others to guard against injuries which naturally flow as a reasonably probable and foreseen consequence of an act, and such a duty does not depend on privity of contract, privity of interest or the proximity of relationship but extends to remote and unknown persons.” 973 N.E. 2d 880, 887-888.

In the wake of the conviction of Jerry Sandusky for sexual abusing minors, Illinois has amended The Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act, 325 ILCS 5/4. The amendment which became effective June 27, 2012, adds: personnel of institutions of higher education and director or staff of athletic program, to the extensive list of people who are mandatory reporters of knowledge of abuse or neglect of a child.

The law-325 ILCS 5/4-has for years covered physicians, residents, nurses, dentists, chiropractors, EMTs, crisis line personnel, nursery school personnel, teachers, educational personnel (which did not until recently include “institutions of higher education”), members of school board, social workers, law enforcement officers, psychologists, probation officers, foster parents, truant officers, and personnel at various state agencies. They all have a duty when “having reasonable cause to believe a child known to them in their professional or official capacity may be an abused child or neglected child” to “immediately report or cause a report to be made to the Department” (Dept. of Children and Family Services)325 ILCS 5/4. Failure to report may well be the evidence to hold the institution of higher education or athletic program financially accountable when they fail to insure their personnel are aware of and do report suspected abuse of children.

The penalties for failing to report or filing a false report range from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class 3 felony. The thrust of the recent amendment of the Act and in including “personnel of institutions of higher education” and “director or staff of..athletic program” is to address precisely the situation that occurred at Penn State University where numerous members of the athletic department and many administrators including the president of the university were aware of reports of childhood sexual abuse and did nothing about it. Neither the Sandusky saga nor Penn State legal problems will go away soon. It is difficult for many of us to imagine grown men becoming aware of a pattern of sexual abuse of young boys by a university coach, and not stopping it immediately and clearly reporting the criminal behavior. At Penn State the sanctity of their football program and the money it generates trumped the natural tendency of grown men to protect a young boy from a sexual predator like Sandusky. Hopefully this amendment may save a child in Illinois from undergoing what Sandusky’s victims endured!

People injured in accidents in Illinois frequently hire an attorney recommended by a friend or who advertises on TV. The lawyer retained will sometimes have little or no jury trial experience-this question should always be asked before retaining the attorney. Oftentimes the client becomes unhappy with the lawyer-lack of communication, attorney lacks the required experience, lawyer referring case out to another lawyer, and many more. Whatever the reason you are entitled to consult with another attorney for a second opinion. I have successfully represented injured victims and their families in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits in Illinois state courts and federal courts throughout the United States for over 30 years.

On the occasions that I have been contacted for a second opinion the most common questions posed are: Is it possible to change lawyers?-the answer is YES, What will it cost to change lawyers?-the answer is often NOTHING, and Will it hurt my ability to collect full compensation?-the answer normally is NO. Remember that if you suffered injuries as a result of the fault of another you will only get one opportunity to obtain full and fair compensation and unless you have a mutual relationship of trust and respect with your lawyer it is unlikely that your goals will be achieved. It is a fundamental right of every client to discharge his/her attorney and hire another attorney and this decision must be respected by the discharged attorney.

All cases present unique factual and legal issues and we offer free consultation to discuss your case. I take pride in guaranteeing that I will be present with you at all times during the lawsuit from initial consultation, depositions, pretrial conferences, the jury trial, and any appeals that may follow. You will not be referred to another lawyer or firm nor will a young associate handle your case. I remain with my clients all the way through the litigation process. This is important because I have numerous significant verdicts for my clients in personal injury and wrongful death actions including many multi million dollar verdicts. The insurance companies and their lawyers know this-and this significantly increases your opportunity to receive full compensation. Should you so choose feel free to contact Edmund Scanlan toll free at 877-494-1309 for a free telephone or office consultation.

Illinois sexual abuse lawyers representing clients who were abused when they were children are confronted with four different versions of 735 ILCS 5/13-202.2. A careful analysis of the four distinct versions of the statute is essential in determining whether the claim is viable or fails due to the statute of limitation and/or the statute of repose.

The 1991 version (effective 1-1-91) of 735 ILCS 5/13-202.2 provides that an action for childhood sexual abuse must be commenced within 2 years of reaching 18 or 2 years from the date the person abused discovers the act of childhood sexual abuse occurred and that an injury was caused by the childhood sexual abuse. The statute of repose in the statute provided that : “…but in no event may an action for personal injury based on childhood sexual abuse be commenced more than 12 years after the date on which the person abuse attains the age of 18 years.”

The Illinois Appellate Court in Wisniewski v. Dioceses of Belleville, 406 Ill. App. 3d 1119, 1150, 943 N.E. 2d 43, 69 (2011), stated: “The difference between a statute of limitations and a statute of repose is that a statute of limitations governs the time within which lawsuits may be commenced after a cause of action has accrued, while a statute of repose extinguishes the action after a fixed period of time, regardless of when the action accrued. “The effect of the 1991 version of the statute was to “bar anyone over the age of 30 from bringing an action for personal injury based on childhood sexual abuse.” Doe v. Diocese of Dallas, 243 Ill. 2d 393, 408, 917 N.E. 2d 475, 484 (2009).

Illinois sexual abuse victims and their attorneys have experienced progress and setbacks in attempts to receive just compensation for their injuries-many of which are catastrophic and permanent.

735 ILCS 5/8-2801 protects victims of sexual abuse having to defend against evidence of other sexual behavior. This is extremely important because victims do not want to have their whole history of sexual activity put under a public spotlight in order to pursue a legitimate claim of sexual abuse. Effective January 1, 2010.

735 ILCS 5/13-202.2 increased the time victims of childhood sexual abuse have to file suit to 20 years after victim reaches 18 or 20 years from the date the victim discovers both (1) that the act of childhood sexual abuse occurred and (2) that the injury was caused by the sexual abuse. This good news for victims since they frequently don’t recognize until well after they reach 18 that their psychological and/or emotional injuries were caused as a result of the sexual abuse they suffered as children. Effective January 1, 2011

Illinois sexual abuse victims and their lawyers are now protected against having to defend against evidence of other sexual behavior or sexual predisposition. Effective January 1, 2010, 735 ILCS 5/8-2801 provides that: “Admissibility of evidence; prior sexual activity or reputation.

(a) Evidence generally inadmissible. The following evidence is not admissible in any civil proceeding except as provided in subsection (b) and (c):

(1) evidence offered to prove that any victim engaged in other sexual behavior; or (2) evidence to prove any victim’s sexual predisposition.

Illinois sexual abuse victims and their attorneys were severely disappointed with the September 24, 2009, Illinois Supreme Court decision in Doe v. Diocese of Dallas, 234 Ill. 2d 393, 917 N.E. 2d 475. The court framed the issue as: “..whether section 13-202.2 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/13-202.2), may be applied to permit an action for personal injury based on childhood sexual abuse to proceed where that action would otherwise have been time-barred under the law as it existed when the amendment took effect.”

The defendant priest’s lawyer contended that because plaintiff’s cause of action was already time-barred under the prior law years before the the 2003 amendments took effect, allowing the lawsuit to go forward now would deprive him of a vested right in violation of the due process protections of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, Art. I Sec. 12). The Illinois Supreme Court agreed stating: “once a statute of limitations has expired, the defendant has a vested right to invoke the bar of the limitations period as a defense to a cause of action. That right cannot be taken away by the legislature without offending the due process protections of our state’s constitution.”

This decision has caused me to discontinue representation of several meritorious claims of my clients. The court did not dwell on the thoughtful analysis of two appellate court opinions that discussed the retroactivity analysis between the “vested rights” and “legislative intent” approach to determining whether a claim is time-barred. I have written two earlier blogs on this topic. This is a sad day for victims of sexual abuse in Illinois.

As an Illinois lawyer representing victims of childhood sexual abuse I was pleased with the recent ruling in Doe v. Hinsdale Township High School District, 388 Ill. App. 3d 995, 905 N.E. 2d 343 (2009). In Doe, a female high school student brought action for personal injuries based upon childhood sexual abuse against school, principal, and superintendent. The trial judge in Du Page county dismissed student’s claims against school, principal and superintendent based on the Illinois Tort Immunity Act, 745 ILCS 10/8-101, ruling that a suit against the school or any of its employees must be brought within the one year statute of limitations for suits against governmental entities or their employees. The issue on appeal was whether the one year statute of limitations for governmental bodies and their employees governed this action or whether the five year statute of limitations for Childhood Sexual Abuse, 735 ILCS 5/13-202.2 applied.

The Appellate Court in Doe, stated:

In resolving which statute apples, we note that the cardinal rule of statutory construction is to ascertain and give effect to the legislature’s intent.

905 N.E. 2d at 347. The reviewing court concluded that:

In this case, section 13-202.2(b) of the Code (735 ILCS 5/13-202.2(b) begins with the language “notwithstanding any other provision of law.” In using this language, the legislature clearly intended section 13-202.2 of the Code to control over other provisions of law, such as section 8-101 of the Tort Immunity Act, which would otherwise bar the plaintiff’s action.

905 N.E. 2d at 348.

This ruling is a clear victory for victim’s of childhood sexual abuse in that it does not limit to one year the time frame a victim can sue a governmental employee or governmental entity regarding any duties they may have to children under their care and supervision for sexual abuse by others they employ or control. This decision while respecting the statutory language, also furthers the legislative intent in allowing children adequate time to assess the damage done to them by the pedophile. From a practical standpoint it is frequently only the employer of the pedophile who can pay damages to the sexually abused victim. Further, it provides a clear incentive for schools or other organizations that deal with children on a regular basis to have a clear set of guidelines for what is and is not appropriate relationships between children and their teachers, coaches or others who interact with them on a regular basis. The bottom line is that this decision will insure that school districts, park districts, and others dealing with children will have to be vigilant regarding the screening and monitoring of the individuals who came into contact with the children that have been entrusted to their care. This is a good thing!

Illinois sexual abuse victims through their lawyers won another victory in the Appellate Court regarding application of the statute of limitaions. In M.K. v. L.C. et al, 2009 WL 103616, released January 9-09, the Third District Appellate Court chose to follow the holding of an opinion released last year, Doe v. Diocese of Dallas, 379 Ill. App. 3d 782, 885 N.E. 2d 376 (2008), where the Fifth District held that the 2003 amendment to the Childhood Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations, 735 ILCS 5/13-202.2(b), was to be applied retroactively. Essentially this means that even if the statute of repose or limitations had expired before the 2003 amendment, the amendment controls, and the action may be mantained.

While this case and the Doe case will be reviewed by the Illinois Supreme Court, I am personally hopeful that these two thoughtful opinions by our Appellate Court will provide the framework and legal analysis that will lead the Justices to conclude that retroactive application of 735 ILCS 5/13-202.2(b), is the law of the State of Illinois. In an earlier blog, March 21-08, I conducted a detailed analysis of the “legislative Intent” and “vested rights” appraoch to applying statutes of repose and limitations retroactively. The bottom line is that our legislature has passed a statute that allows childhood sexual abuse victims longer times to file their suits because the damage from the sexual abuse does not always manifest itself within two years of reaching majority, this legislative determination should not be overruled by the judicial branch without a compelling right being violated. I see none, and so do two Appellate Courts in Illinois