When Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse are Actionable

August 4, 2020

Abuse of children by clergy and teachers, when reported, often leads to criminal charges against the perpetrator. Too often the survivors of this horrid abuse do not realize they have civil remedies against the perpetrator and possibly his or her employer. While many churches are beginning to disclose reported abuse, this disclosure is often too little too late. If  a church for example, learns of abuse, they have a duty to protect future children from that harm. Often, these institutions instead intentionally conceal that information. This was the case with the Diocese of Covington which led to the class action settlement in 1998.

Where the employer of a pedophile was aware of a sexual abuse history of an employee and, nevertheless, hired or retained the employee despite that awareness, then such employer may be liable for the injuries suffered by the child sexual abuse victim. Both Kentucky and Ohio apply a legal theory known as fraudulent concealment to extend those deadlines.  For example, where a church or school has hidden from the public their knowledge of a history of sexual abuse of minors by one of its clergy or teachers, the deadline for filing a child sexual abuse claim may be extended beyond limitations periods set out in statutes. 

In response to the increasing number of reported child sexual abuse, many state legislatures have responded by extending statutes of limitations.  For example, in recent years both Ohio and Kentucky have extended statutes of limitations for childhood sexual abuse claims.  Ohio extended its limitations period for filing such claims to twelve (12) years (O.R.C. 2305.111), and Kentucky extended its limitations period to ten (10) years (KRS 413.249). In Ohio, depending on the  particular facts of the case, the Supreme Court has applied that extended period to both the perpetrator and the employer of the perpetrator.  As it currently stands, Kentucky’s intermediate Court of Appeals applied the extended period only to the perpetrator, and not to the perpetrator’s employer

            These types of cases are very fact driven and include complex theories of law. Their nature, coupled with the emotional toll of reliving the abuse, makes the choice of an attorney critical. If you or your child has been a victim of sexual abuse, it is important that you contact an attorney familiar with this area of law.  Our attorneys at O’Hara, Taylor, Sloan and Cassidy not only have experience successfully litigating clergy abuse cases needed for your legal matter, but we have the understanding necessary to walk alongside you during this difficult process.