Although it appears that this has taken more than a little time, Penn State's agreement to pay out nearly $60 million dollars in settlements to 26 sex abuse victims occurred rather quickly, especially when considering the long, drawn out battles facing sexual abuse victims in claims against other institutional defendants.
Negotiations began in August, and the University decided to wait until nearly all claims were settled before making a public announcement. Some of the settlement payments and attorney fees will be covered by insurance, with the remaining payments coming from the University.
These cases involve holding one person, or in this case, an entity, responsible for the behavior of another. Obviously, the key to establishing responsibility on the University's part is determining who knew what, when they knew it, and what they did after they found out about it. With the prospect of a public trial that would obviously embarrass the University, litigation from an assistant coach who witnessed one incident of sexual assault, and two administrators under criminal indictment, settlement seemed like the University's only real option.
Our firm has represented sexual abuse victims in the past, and in many cases, there was a person, whether it was a significant other, a school district, or some other supervisory entity, that could have easily prevented the resulting abuse. In some cases, the law allows the victim to hold the other person responsible, and in other cases, not. Much depends on not only what the supervisor or administrator knew, but their legal responsibility under state law.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims.