Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse in CA Seek Justice Against Religious & Youth-Serving Organizations

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Under California’s new Child Victim’s Act, attorneys with Panish Shea & Boyle LLP and Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala  have filed their first of a series of lawsuits on behalf of over a dozen plaintiffs who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse in California. The survivors were abused by those who had held positions of power as leaders or volunteers in religious or other youth-serving organizations and precluded from bringing suits due to the previous statute of limitations. In all of these cases, the institutions had either known the abuse was taking place and swept it aside or failed to protect the children otherwise from their abusers.

“Today, survivors of child sex abuse in California are able to hold their abusers and the institutions that enabled them accountable,” said Spencer Lucas, attorney at Panish Shea & Boyle LLP. “Nothing is going to erase the pain and suffering that these survivors have endured but they will be able to seek justice from those that failed to protect them.”

AB 218, signed into law by Governor Newsom on October 13, 2019, provides a three-year window for survivors of child sexual abuse to file a lawsuit, regardless of when the abuse occurred and regardless of their current age. The law also revises the current statute of limitations for child sex abuse claims, giving survivors until age 40 to file suit or within five years after drawing a connection between the abuse and their current psychological injuries.

“The law is doing more than enabling survivors like myself to file suits that we couldn’t before,” said survivor Paul Turley. “It’s sending a powerful warning to any would-be abusers that their crimes will not be tolerated, forgotten or hidden by their institutions like before. I am so thankful that this law will help protect our children and I hope that no child will ever have to endure what I went through.”

Mr. Turley was abused in the late 1970s by his Scoutmaster, Alan “Grossman” Bagration, when he was approximately 12 years old. Bagration was one of the most heinous perpetrators and had a number of child sexual abuse offenses prior to Mr. Turley’s abuse. Bagration was a fugitive at the time of the abuse and had warrants out for his arrest due to skipping bail on a recent child molestation arrest. Despite this, he was allowed to serve in a leadership role in the scouting organization and gain access to children.

“Today is a long-awaited day of reckoning for organizations like the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts who allowed countless predators to take advantage of the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Michael Pfau, Partner at Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala. “From Washington State, New York, New Jersey and now California, the tides are turning in favor of survivors who will finally have their day in court and will bring these injustices to light.”

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