In the first in what is likely to be a litany of civil lawsuits, a 29 year old man has filed a personal injury civil lawsuit against former Penn State assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, the Second Mile, (the charity for “at risk children” that Sandusky founded) and Penn State University. The plaintiff, who is identified only as “John Doe A”, alleges that he first met Sandusky when he was a ten year old boy through a Second Mile program. He alleges that he was sexually assaulted by Sandusky more than 100 times over a 4 year period from 1992 through 1996.
The plaintiff in this civil lawsuit is apparently not one of the eight victims described in the grand jury report released earlier this month. John Doe A claims that Sandusky recruited him with gifts, travel and privileges as a promising athlete, and that the abuse took place at Sandusky’s home, in the locker room on the Penn State campus, and at the site of a bowl game. It is also alleged that Sandusky threatened the plaintiff and his family if he disclosed the ongoing abuse.
Jeffrey Anderson, the attorney for John Doe A, is a well known lawyer from Minnesota who specializes in “clergy sexual abuse.” Anderson’s co-counsel Marci Hamilton indicated that John Doe A had lengthy discussions with Pennsylvania authorities this week.
I have reviewed the 27 page complaint filed on November 30, 2011 in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. There are eight causes of action against the three defendants, with $50,000 the monetary amount being sought for each count. The complaint recounts the entire history of the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State, including the well publicized incidents in 2000, when Sandusky was allegedly observed orally sodomizing a young boy by a school janitor, and the 2002 incident when he was allegedly caught raping another 10 year old victim by assistant coach Mike McQueary.
In the complaint, there are causes of action for:
1. Childhood sexual abuse and “vicarious liability”;
3. Negligent supervision;
4. Premises liability;
5. Negligent misrepresentation;
6. Intentional infliction of emotional distress;
7. Intentional misrepresentation;
8. Civil conspiracy to endanger children.
The complaint was drafted in a way to establish liability against the “deep pocket” defendants, meaning Penn State and to a lesser extent, the Second Mile, as these are the parties likely to have sufficient assets to satisfy a judgment if the case proceeds to trial and liability (fault) is proven against Penn State and the Second Mile. Many of the allegations contain the language ”knew or should have known”, which is a legal concept known as actual and constructive notice. Essentially, Mr. Anderson is alleging that either Penn State and the Second Mile knew of Sandusky’s abuse of children (actual notice), which can be proven through direct observation of witnesses, conversations, or documents, or should have known,(constructive notice) in that these defendants would have to have been oblivious to clear indications that Sandusky was abusing children but chose to ignore these signs. For example, shouldn’t anyone have been questioning why Sandusky continuously was alone in the company of young boys in locker rooms, at his home, at bowl games and other locations? How come no other coaches were ever present for these activities?
The vicarious liability action, which means that one party can be found responsible for the actions of another, is premised on the fact that Sandusky was a representative and employee of the Second Mile and Penn State, who could be held accountable if it is established that Sandusky was acting as their representative in his interactions with children.
Of these eight causes of action, only the first and third were commenced against all three defendants, including Sandusky. Clearly, the manner in which the complaint is written is designed to establish fault against Penn State and Second Mile for placing Sandusky in a position in which he would have access to young children and be in a position to engage in abuse. Anderson knows that Sandusky does not have the assets that a huge corporation such as Penn State has, or to a lesser extent, the Second Mile, to pay a judgment if the case proceeds to trial. Further, there is also a significant insurance coverage question. Many policies are written to exclude coverage for intentional actions, or to exclude insurance coverage for sexual assault.
It is not at all surprising that Sandusky has reportedly transferred the title of his house to his wife, unquestionably fearing civil lawsuits and the loss of his assets. However, there is a concept in the law by which if assets are transferred in anticipation of litigation, the transfer can be voided as fraudulent. On the other hand, some states do have an exemption for the homestead, potentially removing Sandusky’s house as a possible asset to satisfy a judgment. If Sandusky has bank accounts or stocks, those are assets which he will undoubtedly have a problem transferring and or protecting now that the first of several civil lawsuits has been filed.
We will continue to report on the Penn State scandal as it is apparent that this is the inception of what is certain to be a litany of criminal and civil lawsuits, with a wide range of legal issues to be resolved.
Contact the Westchester County Personal Injury Attorneys online or toll free at 888-761-7633 if you are seriously injured in any type of accident, a victim of medical malpractice, or injured by a defective product for a free initial consultation to discuss your case in detail with an experienced trial lawyer.