Miller & Zois’ sexual assault attorneys fight for victims in Maryland to hold these criminals who commit sexual assault and abuse and the organizations that supported them accountable.
The key to obtaining money damages for your suffering is usually finding an organization, like a church, Boy Scouts, or medical practice that is responsible for employing or, worse, assisting in the abuse and cover-up. Victims in these sex abuse cases can fight to get the maximum compensation Maryland law allows.
Our sexual abuse attorneys fight for victims in Baltimore and throughout Maryland. If you think you may have a claim, you want to contact an experienced sex abuse lawyer immediately. There is a sexual assault statute of limitations that our lawyers discuss below that imposes strict deadlines to sue.
You can call any of our sexual assault lawyers at 800-553-8082 for a confidential discussion of your case and your options. You can also complete this simple online form.
Our lawyers understand if you are hesitant and scared to bring a claim. We do. If this is the boat you are in, the online form is sometimes a good place to start to gain comfort. If you want to speak only to a man or only to a woman, let us know that. It is important to make the process as comfortable as possible for you.
Call the National Sexual Abuse Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online. Llame la Línea de Ayuda Nacional de Asalto Sexual al 800.656.HOPE (4673) o converse online. Many other sexual assault service providers can help you as well.
UPDATE: New Maryland Law on Sex Abuse Lawsuits
The Maryland legislature is now a step closer to enacting a new law that will eliminate the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits for child sex abuse. Last week, the Judicial Proceedings Committee in the Maryland Senate voted 10-1 to approve a bill called the Child Victims Act of 2023. The bill will now move on to a vote by the entire Senate and then go down to the House of Delegates. If passed, the law will allow victims of child sex abuse to file civil lawsuits no matter how long ago the abuse occurred.
What is Sexual Abuse or Assault?
Sexual abuse (or sexual assault) is generally defined as any type of unwanted or non-consensual sexual touching or contact. Contact or touching is “sexual” when it involves a person’s intimate body parts. Sexual abuse or assault can range from groping to forcible rape.
The key element that defines abuse or assault is the lack of consent. If the sexual contact or touching is not consensual then it is assault. Anyone under the age of 18 is a minor. Minors lack the legal capacity to consent, so any sexual touching of a minor by an adult is considered abuse. All states have criminal laws which more specifically define what constitutes sexual abuse or sexual assault. For purposes of a civil lawsuit, however, the definition of sexual abuse is somewhat broader.
Bringing a Civil Lawsuit for Sexual Abuse or Assault
Sexual abuse or assault is a crime and it can be criminally prosecuted. Whether or not criminal charges are brought, however, victims of sexual abuse always have the right to bring a civil lawsuit and seek financial compensation. Anyone who has been the victim of sexual abuse can file a civil case.
Abuse victims can file a civil lawsuit even if the defendant was never charged with a crime or convicted. The evidentiary burden for proving sexual abuse in a civil lawsuit is significantly lower than it is in a criminal case. This means that it is much easier to prove sexual abuse in a civil case. So even if the abuser escapes criminal justice, they can still be held accountable in civil court.
The other big advantage of a civil lawsuit for sexual abuse is that you can go after third parties in addition to the individual who committed the abuse. Another critical difference is that in civil cases, a victim is a party, not just a witness. This means they have more control over how the case proceeds, including stopping it from continuing.
Who Can You Sue in Sexual Abuse Lawsuit?
The most obvious defendant in a sexual abuse lawsuit is always going to be the individual who committed the abuse or assault. Bringing a lawsuit against the individual abuser is often pointless, however, because even if you win the case you probably won’t be able to get any money out of the abuser. In many cases, the abuser may be dead or in jail. Unless the abuser is very wealthy, bringing a civil lawsuit against them alone won’t get you very far.
The key to a successful sexual abuse lawsuit is going after third-party defendants like companies or schools. A third-party such as a school, church, nursing home, hospital, or other companies or institutions can sometimes be held liable in a sexual abuse civil lawsuit. If you can show that the school or church (or another third party) had a duty to protect the victim or could have potentially stopped the abuse, then that third party can be held liable for monetary damages to the victim.
EXAMPLE: Jane was was sexually abused by her school guidance counselor John when Jane was a student at Acme Private School. Jane can bring a sexual abuse lawsuit against both John and Acme Private School.
Almost any third party (other than the abuser) can be held liable in a sexual assault lawsuit if the third party’s negligence allowed the sexual assault or abuse to occur. One of the most common examples of this is negligent security cases in which a property owner is sued for failing to provide adequate security (e.g., cameras, lighting, etc.).
What Damages Are Recovered in a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit?
In a lawsuit, damages are awarded to a plaintiff to compensate for losses and pain caused by another. There are different types of categories of damages that plaintiffs are entitled to get in a successful civil case, including:
- Pain and suffering, both mental and physical
- Lost wages
- Medical Expenses (past and future)
- Loss of consortium (loss of relationship with spouse, companion, or family)
- Loss of enjoyment of life
In a sexual abuse lawsuit, most of the damages a plaintiff will get will be for pain and suffering. Although sexual abuse or assault can cause physical injuries, the damages from this are primarily mental pain and aguish. In most sexual abuse lawsuits, pain & suffering accounts for more than 80% of the damages awarded.
What is the Statute of Limitations for a Sex Abuse Lawsuit?
The statute of limitations for filing a sexual abuse lawsuit varies by state. Some states have short limitations periods of 2 years or less. Other states have longer limitations of 4 years or more. The applicable deadline for filing a sexual assault lawsuit will also depend on whether the victim is an adult or a minor (under 18) at the time of the assault or abuse.
In Maryland, the statute limitations for sexual abuse lawsuits is 3-years. However, this is probably going to change very soon. The legislature is about to pass a new law that will remove the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits for child sexual abuse.
(a) When the Victim is an Adult
If the victim is an adult (over 18) when the sexual assault occurs, the statute of limitations on their civil claim will begin running from the date of the assault. Depending on what state the case is in, the limitations period could be anywhere from 1 to 6 years. In Maryland, claims for sexual abuse or assault are subject to the general 3-year statute of limitations that applies to all tort claims. Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-101.
This means that if Jane is sexually assaulted by John on Janaury 1, 2021, she has until 1-1-2024 to file a civil lawsuit against John for the assault. If Jane does not sue John before the three-year period expires on January 1, 2024, she will be legally barred from ever suing him.
(b) When the Victim is a Child
When the victim of sexual abuse is a minor (under 18) when the incident(s) occurs, the statute of limitations on their civil lawsuit for the assault will not start to run until they reach the age majority (18). Under Maryland’s 3-year SOL for sexual assault claims, this means that when the victim is a minor, they have until their 21st birthday to file a lawsuit even if the abuse occurred when they were just 8 or 9.
Let’s say Jane is sexually abused by her youth group pastor, Reverend John, over a 3-year period beginning when she was just 7 years old and ending when she was 10. Jane was a minor when the abuse occurred, so she has until her 21st birthday to decide whether she wants to file a civil lawsuit against Rev. John (or the church).
In response to the clergy abuse scandals, 15 states have recently passed new laws that significantly expanded the limitations period for victims to file civil lawsuits. These states have either significantly extended or completely lifted their existing statutes of limitation to allow sex abuse lawsuits even when the abuse occurred decades earlier.
These new rules vary from state to state. Some states created 1 or 2-year “lookback windows,” during which childhood sex abuse victims would be allowed to sue no matter how many years had passed. Other states simply extended the limitations period for abuse claims.
Sexual Assault Verdicts and Settlements
Below are examples of sexual assault lawsuits that resulted in verdicts and settlements in favor of plaintiffs. This gives you some idea of the potential range of settlement amounts and jury payouts in ex
You should not expect your case to look like one of these cases, but they can help you get a sense of what is possible.
- January 2021, California, $1,450,000 Settlement: A former figure skater alleged accused former figure skating coach Richard Callaghan of sexual assault. His suit alleged the coach molested and sexually abused him as a teenager. Importantly, he sued the USA Figure Skating for failing to protect him and other young athletes from Callaghan. He accused the organization of knowledge about the allegations yet failed to investigate them. USA Figure Skating agreed to settle for $1.45 million.
- December 2020, Washington, $2,000,000 Settlement: A 47-year-old woman accused her high school band teacher of sexual abuse that took place 30 years ago. Her molestation lawsuit alleged that he abused and manipulated her at his home, at school, and on band trips. She later became a music teacher herself. Sadly, she eventually left the job because it brought back traumatic memories that gave her severe anxiety. She hired a rape victim lawyer and filed a lawsuit against the school. The school district agreed to resolve her claim for a settlement amount of $2 million.
- November 2020, California, $73,000,000 Settlement: Over 6,000 women accused former UCLA gynecologist James Heaps of sexual abuse over 35 years. They claimed he made lewd comments and inappropriately touched them during appointments. UCLA agreed to pay the women $73 million. The university also agreed to change its policies and procedures on doctors’ appointments and sexual abuse reporting.
- October 2020, Ohio, $46,700,000 Settlement: Hundreds of former Ohio State athletes accused now-deceased team doctor Richard Strauss of sexual abuse that occurred between 1979 and 1997. They claimed Strauss groped them during physical examinations at campus athletic facilities, an off-campus clinic, or his home. The Ohio State University agreed to settle 185 survivors’ lawsuits for $46.7 million.
- October 2018, California, $240,000,000 Settlement: Thousands of women accused former USC campus gynecologist George Tyndall of sexual abuse that occurred between 1997 and 2016. They claimed he made lewd remarks, inappropriately touched them, performed unnecessary procedures, and video recorded exams. The women alleged that USC knew of the allegations but failed to address them. USC agreed to pay $240 million, $215 million of which went to the victims.
- May 2018, Michigan, $500,000,000 Settlement: Hundreds of women, including many Olympic gymnasts, accused former Michigan State University osteopathic physician Larry Nassar of sexual assault over 20 years. They claim he sexually assaulted them during medical examinations and procedures. Many of the victims at the time were minors. The women alleged that USA Gymnastics, MSU, and other institutions failed to protect them from Nassar. MSU agreed to a $500 million settlement, which went to over 100 women.
- November 2019, Massachusetts, $90,000 Settlement: A man visits family in Salem, Massachusetts to celebrate Halloween. He has too much to drink. He leaves the water on and floods his hotel room. Someone calls the police. An officer responds. Soaking wet, the man changes out of his clothes and is wrapped in a blanket sitting on a chair. The law enforcement officer starts touching him and pulls him into a closet. Inside, the officer sexually assaults the young man while in protective custody. The plaintiff hires a sex abuse attorney who files a lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that his civil rights were violated and that the police department negligently supervised and trained its officers. He experienced emotional distress as a result of the incident. The defendant officer claims it was consensual. The parties agree to a $90,000 settlement.
- June 2019, Missouri, $8,200,000 Verdict: A woman uses Uber to get rides to and from an event. She uses the same driver both times. On the way back to her apartment, she is drunk. She gets inside the apartment, but her driver calls multiple times asking to use her bathroom. She lets him inside and he rapes her. As a result of the rape, she suffers emotional distress and PTSD symptoms, making it difficult to continue with her post-graduate program. Additionally, she claims that Uber knew about a prior incident with the driver, in which he was found guilty of domestic assault. In the end, charges against Uber were dropped, but the judge ruled that the perpetrator was responsible for 8.2 million in damages and punitive damages, which are damages intended as punishment for the man’s crimes.
- June 2019, Florida, $900,000 Verdict: The plaintiff, a woman living in Pensacola, Florida, is raped in her apartment by a maintenance man. As a maintenance employee of the apartment complex, he had access to her room. She files suit against the perpetrator for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress and the apartment for negligent hiring and retention. She is awarded $900,000 but she was forced to dismiss the claim against the apartment complex. This is one of those cases where the verdict is impressive but it is hard to imagine that there is insurance or other deep pocket to back up the verdict.
- January 2019, California, $58,250,000 Verdict: A woman working as a production assistant begins to experience inappropriate behavior from the owner of her company. His conduct falls under harassment and unwanted sexual contact-a sexual offense. The abuse is happening every day and eventually makes her resign from her job. She becomes introverted and develops a depressive disorder and PTSD, both of which are expected to affect her for the rest of her life. In the trial, the jury finds the man committed sexual battery and awards the woman compensatory as well as punitive damages.
- December 2018, New York, $27,500,000 Settlement: This case involves a serial child molester who was a religious instructor with the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. The assaults were many and happened for four years. The instructor was frequently left alone with the children. He would pick them up from school, bring them to a daycare center, and spend time with children when their parents were late. The instructor is serving a 15-year jail sentence. The plaintiffs file a sexual abuse suit against the diocese because it became clear that members of the institution knew that the instructor was predatory but did little to stop him from having contact with children. The lawsuit settles before trial, awarding the four plaintiffs an equal share of $27,500,000. The plaintiffs were between eight and twelve years old when they were assaulted.
- June 2018, New Jersey, $35,000 Settlement: A woman is incarcerated at a New Jersey women’s correctional facility. She is forced into multiple sex acts by correctional officers, claiming that one officer would perform the acts while the other kept watching. She claims that though the officers were fired for the intentional touching of the victim, she continued to experience sexual assaults from other officers. These officers coerced other inmates to say good things about the staff to discredit her claims. The administrator of the facility, she claims, knew about the activity. She hires a sexual assault attorney and sues the New Jersey state corrections department, the administrator of the facility, and the officers for violating her civil rights, assault and battery, common law negligence, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring and retention.
- January 2018, Maryland, $22,130,000 Verdict: This case underscores that men are victims, too. A 30-year-old man goes to the dentist with a cracked molar. He cracked his tooth while eating peanuts. The dentist informs his patient that he has to remove the tooth and sedates him with nitrous oxide so that he can do so. The man awakes from his unconscious state to discover that the dentist is forcing him into oral sex. For this and other sexual assault charges, the dentist goes to jail. The man files a lawsuit against the dentist and his practice, seeking damages for emotional distress and medical injuries associated with the cracked tooth.
- July 2017, California, $60,000,000 Verdict: In this high-profile case, three female students sue their taekwondo teacher for the sexual abuse they experienced during the years they spent training with him. The girls were elite athletes and competed at events hosted by the US Olympic Committee and USA Taekwondo. They were assaulted when they were between the ages of 15 and 17, and though they were not physically hurt, continue to experience extensive psychological trauma. Their coach would have them drink alcohol and have sex with him in hotel rooms while they were traveling for competitions. The coach was arrested and sentenced to four years in jail. The judge in this civil case awarded each of the girls $10,000,000 for past pain and suffering and $20,000,000 for future pain and suffering.
Getting Help from a Maryland Sex Abuse Lawyer
Again, if you are hesitant, we understand. Reach out to our lawyers for sexual assault victims. You do not even have to use your real name. Get information about your options and learn exactly how a case like yours would proceed and what it would involve. You also do not have to call just us. Call several lawyers to find the best sexual assault attorney for you.
Call our Baltimore sex abuse lawyers at 800-553-8082 for a free consultation. Is there someone you would rather speak to about your case? Look at our team and decide. Again, you can reach our attorneys for the sexually abused by reaching out online or by text at 410-835-4103.
Sexual Abuse Resources
- Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)
- Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA)
- House of Ruth Maryland
- A Guide to Civil Actions for Survivors of Sexual Assault