Penn State University is reportedly seeking to settle the civil lawsuits filed by victims of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky after a Pennsylvania jury convicted Sandusky on forty-five counts of sexual abuse. This reported intent includes lawsuits that were already filed against the university, and those that are sure to follow. Penn State proposed a process to “address the victims’ concerns and compensate them for claims” related to allegations of abuse by Sandusky and both inaction and concealment by the university. In all likelihood, the university wants to resolve all potential claims quickly. Several lawsuits are already pending in Pennsylvania courts.
Sandusky worked in the Penn State football program for decades, retiring in 1999 but staying on with an “emeritus” title. He founded The Second Mile, a charity intended to help at-risk youth, in 1977. Prosecutors alleged that he used the charity to find his victims. They also alleged that the university knew about allegations of abuse going back years but failed to follow up on reports and investigations. In addition to the charges against Sandusky, prosecutors charged several Penn State administrators with perjury and obstruction of justice. After a trial lasting about a week, a jury convicted Sandusky on all but three charges of sexual abuse, forty-five in total.
Penn State’s legal settlement overtures come at a time when the school is highly vulnerable to civil claims. With multiple criminal convictions against Sandusky, pending criminal cases against former administrators, and investigation of the school by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, evidence of liability is arguably mounting. The university’s main liability insurer has also sought a court order limiting its own liability. The school may simply wish to put all pending and potential matters behind it as soon as possible.
The first lawsuit arising from this case, filed on November 30, 2011, names Sandusky, Penn State, and The Second Mile as defendants. The plaintiff in that case, identified only as John Doe, alleges that he met Sandusky through The Second Mile at the age of ten in 1992. He claims that Sandusky sexually abused him multiple times and in a variety of locations from 1992 to 1996. The abuse and molestation occurred, according to the complaint, at Sandusky’s home, at Penn State facilities, and in other locations within Pennsylvania and outside the state. John Doe asserts a cause of action for childhood sexual abuse against Sandusky, and also seeks to hold the school and the charity vicariously liable for the abuse.
The plaintiff lists several other causes of action against Penn State and The Second Mile, mostly related to alleged negligence for failing to protect a child under the charity’s care or to supervise Sandusky. Counts include negligence, negligent supervision, negligent misrepresentation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and intentional misrepresentation. The suit also claims premises liability, since many of the assaults allegedly occurred on property under the control of the university or the charity, who owed a duty to provide a safe environment. Finally, the suit charges all three defendants with “civil conspiracy to endanger children.”
The Maryland personal injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen are skilled at pursuing justice for people injured due to the negligence or illegal acts of others. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.
Plaintiff’s Complaint (PDF), Doe v. The Second Mile, et al, Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, November 20, 2011
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Photo credit: ‘Penn State kickoff’ by Ben Stanfield (user name acaben) of flickr [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.