Penn State could be sued over child sex-abuse scandal, lawyer says

Nov. 10, 2011


Penn State University faces a “substantial” exposure to civil lawsuits as a result of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal, says one of Pennsylvania’s leading civil attorneys.

Matt Casey, a founding partner of the Philadelphia firm Ross Feller Casey who in 2008 won the second-largest compensatory verdict in Pennsylvania history, said he thinks “a very credible argument can be made” that Penn State officials “not only didn’t do anything to prevent the conduct from continuing, but — even worse — in some ways facilitated the conduct by providing (Sandusky) with an office and keys to facilities and the imprimatur of the football office, which it seems he exploited in order to impress and otherwise retain the trust of these children.”

That exposes the university not only to claims for civil damages but also punitive damages, he said.
As recently as last week, he said, Sandusky was listed in the university’s online directory as emeritus professor of physical education.

“And it appears there was knowledge at the highest levels of the university that he was using the property as an instrument in the performance of his crimes against the most vulnerable of citizens," Casey said.

“It is exceedingly rare to see — from the point of view of an attorney — a civil liability case that is so obviously a punitive case,” said Casey.

Casey noted that punitive damages can be multiples of the compensation awarded. “The U.S. Supreme Court has said punitive damages as much as ten times any compensatory damages will be upheld,” said Casey.

Penn State’s exposure would depend on many factors, including the number of cases filed.

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