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Civil Suits About to be Filed Against Penn State

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on November 15, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Lawyers are taking action in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal at Penn State. Civil suits may soon be filed against Sandusky, his charity The Second Mile, Penn State, and anyone who failed to report the abuse -- including former head coach Joe Paterno.

Civil lawsuits are usually heard after criminal cases are concluded. Though civil suits may take years to play out in court, they could result in multimillion-dollar judgments for sex abuse victims, one lawyer told The New York Times:

"The damage to the victims is so profound -- pain, suffering and perhaps lifetime injuries -- that juries usually are unbridled as to how to calculate the damages," said Harold Goodman, a Philadelphia lawyer who has represented multiple clients in similar cases.

Former defensive coordinator Sandusky is charged with 40 counts of child sexual abuse. Two Penn State administrators, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, are charged with failing to report it.

Those are the only criminal charges that prosecutors have pursued to date. But an onslaught of civil suits is likely, lawyers say.

Civil lawsuits could target:

  • Penn State. Lawyers may try to argue that the failure of Penn State's administration to notify police violated victims' rights to "bodily integrity" under the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment. This is a common tactic in sexual assault cases, The Daily Beast notes.
  • Penn State administrators as individuals. Lawyers may allege negligence on the part of various Penn State administrators. To prove negligence, they must show administrators breached a duty to the victims -- such as the duty to follow Pennsylvania's reporting law, which is the crux of the case against Curley and Schultz.
  • The Second Mile. It's still unclear how much executives of Sandusky's charity knew about Sandusky's abuse. Lawyers may pursue various claims depending on the depth of the charity's knowledge and involvement.
  • Jerry Sandusky. Victims may personally seek damages from Sandusky for his alleged abuse, lawyers say.

Sandusky is also being targeted in court by members of his own family. The mother of three of Sandusky's grandchildren is seeking a restraining order to prevent Sandusky from having unsupervised contact with them, The Daily Mail reports.

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