The news is sadly full of tragic stories of the failure to report child abuse and the catastrophic consequences this has had for victims. Child abuse results not only from the acts of abusers, but from those professional who fail to report it.
For over 20 years, we have prosecuted cases on behalf of survivors of child abuse against those who failed their legal responsibility to report it. The following is a sampling of cases handled by attorneys at Williams Cuker Berezofsky.
Abuse by Those we Trust with our Children
Attorneys at Williams Cuker Berezofsky have represented victims of sexual abuse at the hands of members of the clergy and others in authority positions over children victims. In one case a young woman was enticed by a Catholic priest into an improper sexual relationship when she was underage. When the relationship was discovered, the diocese agreed to send the priest away where he would not have contact with children. Several years later, however, it was discovered that the priest either had not been sent away or had returned and was still around children. The victim suffered significant emotional distress because of this discovery. In another case, a man was sexually abused as a young boy by the director of an exclusive, prominent cultural organization of which the boy was a member. Both of these cases settled.
Failure to Report or Diagnose child abuse
Physicians, like other professionals who encounter children in their daily profession, have a legal duty to report suspected child abuse. In one case, a family practitioner saw an infant child on with bruises multiple occasions. The child's primary care giver was a mentally ill father; the mother was working 60 hours a week trying to support the family and then hospitalized due to sudden illness. In spite of clear signs of child abuse, the family doctor never reported it. The child was later admitted to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia with multiple fractures, rectal tears, brain damage. We filed a medical malpractice claim on behalf of the child and his mother, retained experts highly qualified in the area of diagnosis and treatment of child abuse. We ultimately settled the case for an amount well into seven figures.
Physical Abuse of Children
A team of WCB lawyers successfully tried a case representing a special education student suffering from Asperger's Syndrome, who was assaulted on a school bus by other students. The school district did not provide an aide to the young victim, who was transported to school with older, behaviorally challenged male students, and, as a result, put her at risk. The jury agreed that the school district created an unacceptable danger to a vulnerable student and awarded a six figure verdict. On of the attorneys in this case, Sherri Eyer, has a unique background in abuse cases, stemming from her years as an Assistant District Attorney in a suburban Philadelphia county.
In another of our cases, we represented several sixth-grade girls and their parents against a school district and school doctor who subjected them to an inappropriate "examination" without parental knowledge or consent. At trial, the court took the unusual step of directing a verdict in favor of plaintiffs, holding that the district's conduct had violated the girls' constitutional rights. Both the district and the doctor agreed to settle the case.