While sexual assault is generally considered a crime perpetrated by the abuser, other entities may also be held liable in civil courts. Under California law, if another party has a legal “duty of care” to prevent the assault but fails to do so, they may be held accountable for their negligent action or inaction. Every survivor has a right to seek justice for what they have endured, and in some situations, that may extend beyond the actual perpetrator. Establishing negligence in sexual assault cases is crucial for determining liability and stopping the cycle of abuse. The caring and compassionate professionals at Boucher LLP can help you begin to get your life back and hold all responsible parties accountable.
What Is Negligence in Sexual Assault Cases?
Negligence is the key component of liability in all personal injury cases. To establish legal negligence, the defendant must have owed the sexual assault survivor a duty of care. The elements of negligence include the following:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
- The duty of care was breached;
- The breach of duty led to sexual assault; and
- There was actual damage.
In most personal injury cases, damage includes physical injuries and financial hardship. In the case of sexual assault cases, there may also be a heavy emphasis on the emotional and psychological damage caused by the assault.
When Can Negligence As a Claim for Sexual Assault Apply?
There are countless situations where negligence in sexual assault cases can apply to third parties. Many survivors do not even realize all of the injustices that occurred to allow the sexual assault to take place. Though it may be uncomfortable, it is important to discuss the details of the assault with your attorney so they can help analyze the situation to determine if someone else’s due diligence could have protected you. Here are some of the most common examples.
Sexual Assault at School
School authorities at all levels of education have a duty to ensure that students and staff are supervised and safe. Most school employees are considered mandatory reporters, which means if they have any suspicion that sexual assault could occur, they must report it to the authorities. The schools must also make sure that there are rules and safeguards in place on campus to deter sexual assault. In some cases, the school district, school board, or individual staff could be held liable for negligence.
Sexual Assault at Church
If you survived sexual abuse from someone at church, you may be able to hold other individuals liable for failing to protect you. Depending on the structure of your church, this could include employees, volunteers, the local dioceses, or even the Archdiocese. The Catholic Church has a particularly public history of covering up sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy by moving the abuser to a new position or congregation rather than reporting them to the authorities. If a church official or employee knew or should have known about the abuse and failed to take action, they may be held partially responsible for what you suffered.
Sexual Assault at a Place of Business
There are a lot of situations where sexual assault occurs at a place of business. Some of the most common examples include hotels or motels that do not have properly secured doors or windows, nightclubs or bars that lack security personnel, and parking lots that are poorly lit. Though the business owner could not have known that sexual assault would occur, they have a duty to take these standard safety precautions for the benefit of all customers.
Sexual Assault at Work or a Work Event
Your employer has a duty to provide a safe environment and established protocol for reporting sexual abuse. If a person in a position of authority knew or should have reasonably known that sexual assault could occur and failed to take action to prevent it, they or the company as a whole could be held liable. Indications of sexual misconduct may be evident in a number of ways, including complaints from coworkers, formal complaints to human resources, or known behavioral patterns. If sexual assault occurs at a work event, the employer still has the same duty to protect employees.
Sexual Assault in Organized Sports or Clubs
Whether in youth or adult activities, a lot of trust is placed in coaches, teammates, and leaders to behave appropriately. In recent years, there have been multiple public allegations against organizations like the Boy Scouts of America for failing to protect young members. Similarly, high-level collegiate and Olympic sports have struggled to maintain a reputation of being safe for athletes. In cases of sexual abuse in organized sports or clubs, the organization may be liable for failing to keep participants safe.
Sexual Assault Nursing Homes and Medical Facilities
Hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities have a duty to protect patients under their care. In many cases, medical facilities can be held liable for the acts of their employees if the sexual assault occurs while they are working. These facilities have a duty to conduct thorough background checks on all employees before hiring, take action on any complaints of sexual misconduct, staff their departments adequately, and monitor patients who are placed in vulnerable situations. Failing to do any of these things may constitute negligence in sexual assault cases.
Contact a California Sexual Assault Attorney
Holding third parties responsible for negligence in sexual assault cases can help make it clear that allowing sexual assault to occur is unacceptable. The experienced team at Boucher LLP understands the sensitive nature of sexual abuse cases and how difficult it may be to come forward. We are here to help you through the process every step of the way. Though filing a lawsuit against your abuser and those who failed to protect you can never make up for what you have endured, seeking accountability and justice, combined with the potential for meaningful compensation, can help you start the healing process and move forward in your life. Our attorneys have extensive experience fighting for survivors of sexual assault. Contact us to schedule your free case consultation.