In 2004, Jacobs & Crumplar, along with The Neuberger Firm, filed a case for Eric Eden, an adult who had been abused as a child by the Principal of Salesianum High School, which was run by the religious order The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. Eric had only become aware of hundreds of incidents of abuse in the last two years before he filed his suit, because he had repressed the horrible memories of childhood sexual abuse.
The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales challenged Eric’s ability to file suit for his injuries, claiming that the statute of limitations for personal injury actions was two years and that Eric’s suit was thus-barred. The Delaware Superior Court held that since his injuries were inherently unknowable due to memory suppression, the running of the time limitations for filing suit had been tolled and his lawsuit could proceed (Eden v. Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, 04C-01-069 CLS, 2006 WL 3512482 (Del. Super. Dec. 4, 2006). The case later settled before going to trial.
Following that suit, Jacobs & Crumplar, along with The Neuberger Firm, filed suit for Douglas J. McClure, in December 2006. Doug had been sexually abused as a child by Diocese of Wilmington priest Edward Carley from 1954-1956 at St. Ann’s Parish. He had suppressed these memories until 2005. His case settled for $1.5 million dollars in 2008, shortly before it went to trial.
On July 10, 2007, the Delaware General Assembly passed the Child Victim’s Act of 2007 which provided for a two year “lookback” window in which survivors of childhood sexual abuse could file lawsuits based on sexual abuse, regardless of whether the time limitations had passed for filing suit (10 Del. C. 8145(b)).
Jacobs & Crumplar, along with The Neuberger Firm, filed suits for approximately 130 child abuse survivors under the Child Victim’s Act. Further, the Child Victim’s Act provided that after July 10, 2007, there was no longer a time limit for filing suit based on childhood sexual abuse (10 Del. C. 8145(a)). This was vital legislation because of how difficult it is for children who are sexually abused to confront the abuse and file suit for the injuries that they have suffered.
The Religious Orders attempted to challenge the constitutionality of the Child Victim’s Act in Ken’s Whitwell’s case, claiming that the Child Victim’s Act’s two year “lookback” provision violated the Federal and State constitutions. The Court determined that the Act was constitutional and did not violate due process (Whitwell v. Archmere Acad., Inc., 2008 WL 1735370 (Del. Super. Apr. 16, 2008).
Later the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales attempted to challenge the constitutionality of the Child Victim’s Act in Sheehan v. the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. The Delaware Superior Court and the Delaware Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Child Victim’s Act. Sheehan v. Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, C.A. 07C-11-234- CLS (Order, Scott, J., October 27, 2009) ; Sheehan v. Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, 15 A.3d 1247 (Del. 2011).
In October 2009, the first of the cases filed under the Child Victim’s Act to go trial, that of John Vai v. Diocese of Wilmington, Inc., St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church, and Francis J. DeLuca, former priest of the Diocese of Wilmington whose victims numbered over twenty in his 40 year career with the Diocese and beyond. On the eve of trial, the Diocese of Wilmington filed for bankruptcy. This meant that the trial was put on hold. Jacobs & Crumplar, along with The Neuberger Firm, fought for the right of the survivors in the Bankruptcy Court. Significantly, seven survivors were permitted to testify live on August 12, 2010 in the Bankruptcy Court to show that they would be irreparably harmed if their cases against the individual parishes were not allowed to go forward to trial and the Bankruptcy Court determined on August 13, 2010 that the survivors would be irreparably harmed if not permitted to go to trial in the fall of 2010.
Then, in October 2010, Jacobs & Crumplar and The Neuberger Firm represented survivor John Vai in his trial which was permitted by the Bankruptcy Court to proceed, against Francis J. DeLuca and St. Elizabeth’s parish. The jury found St. Elizabeth’s parish was reckless, grossly negligent, and negligent, awarding $60,000,000.00 against DeLuca and $3,000,001.00 against St. Elizabeth’s parish.
In February 2011, survivors of priest abuse and the Diocese of Wilmington reached a $77.425 million lawsuit settlement and creation of a trust to resolve claims against the Diocese of Wilmington.
In the Spring of 2011, Jacobs & Crumplar resolved a case against a non- catholic church for $1,000,000.00 shortly before trial.
The Delaware Superior Court has recognized the sensitive nature of these types of suits and permitted individuals to file under an anonymous pseudonym or “John Doe” (John Yoe #1 v. Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, et al., C.A.No. 09C-06-188-CLS (Del.Super. Mar. 15, 2010 ; Jane Doe # 1 v. Laurel School District, et al., C.A. 09C-06-20 (Del. Super. December 19, 2011).
Jacobs & Crumplar continues to represent survivors of sexual abuse cases against individuals, public schools, churches of all denominations, and any person or institution who contributed to the sexual abuse of a child.
Unfortunately, some institutions refuse to protect children ahead of other interests, such as their reputation and/or economics, unless they are forced to change by civil litigation and the threat of a damages award. The Wilmington sexual abuse lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar are committed to bringing cases against individuals and institutions who allow children to be sexually abused. Please call us today at (302) 656-5445 or contact us online for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights.