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Penn State Child Sex Abuse Scandal

November 17, 2011

There will surely be several, perhaps many, civil lawsuits on behalf of the victims of the Penn State abuse tragedy. Beyond Penn State, many legal experts are opining that the publicity and realization that perpetrators will apparently be brought to justice shall result in other victims seeking legal representation. Some are of the opinion that powerful, commercial institutions have not previously been held sufficiently responsible for their actions and/or inactions. Those institutions, or so it might have been believed, were so intimidating that child victims and their families did not dare commence legal proceedings. In order to shield themselves from harm, the reputations and respected history of the institutions were put before the welfare of child victims of abuse. Perhaps, civil attorneys were intimidated in the past and thus declined to undertake representation of the victims. This is understandable, because most civil justice attorneys simply cannot afford to undertake cases that they do not confidently feel they can win. Such cases are typically handled by attorneys under a contingency fee arrangement, which is the noble and time-honored legal retainer system that affords individuals the ability to take on rich and powerful entities. The contingency fee retainer results in no attorney fee, however, if there is not a successful recovery. The recent Penn State story has brought to the forefront the horrific topic of child abuse at the hands of some members of powerful, trusted institutions. There now appears to be a broader recognition in the field of public opinion that there should be legal consequences for anyone who participates in or enables child molestation and abuse, including but certainly not limited to religious organizations. We will be monitoring the legal consequences of the Penn State, and similar stories.

 

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