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Home > What Is the Average Child Sex Abuse Settlement?

What Is the Average Child Sex Abuse Settlement?


The average child sex abuse settlement in Pennsylvania can range from $100,000 to over $1,000,000. The amount you could recover depends on the specific circumstances surrounding the abuse, including the severity and duration of the abuse and how it has affected you. 

You can count on our dedicated Pennsylvania sex abuse lawyers to work tirelessly to recover the maximum amount available. Our experienced Pennsylvania injury attorneys at Cordisco & Saile are passionate about helping sex abuse survivors get justice through significant financial compensation for the heinous acts perpetrated upon them in childhood. 

A financial settlement can provide survivors of child sexual abuse with much-needed compensation for a lifetime of suffering and difficulty that stem from the abuse. For many survivors, the pain of childhood sexual abuse never goes away. This has prevented some survivors from completing college, maintaining gainful employment, and enjoying positive relationships.

Sexual abuse is often aided and abetted by institutions like the Catholic Church through concealment activities that focus on protecting abusers rather than helping victims. Even without an active coverup, other entities, such as schools, may be complicit in sexual abuse when they fail to implement and enforce policies and procedures that protect children.

Our compassionate lawyers can help you identify the parties that contributed to the abuse and maximize your settlement. Contact us today for a free case review.

What Is the Average Settlement from the Catholic Church?

The average Catholic Church settlement for sexual abuse in Pennsylvania is $136,663.70. This is significantly lower than the averages in other states. 

The dioceses offered these settlements as part of a one-time program in response to a comprehensive investigation by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury that investigated six of the state’s eight dioceses. The Grand Jury identified 300 abusive priests, more than 1,000 victims, and a systematic church-wide coverup of the abuse.  

The average settlement amounts varied depending on the size and resources of each diocese, as follows:

According to a study completed by the Susquehanna Valley Center for Public Policy, if these victims were allowed to file a civil lawsuit, settlements would likely range from $325,000 to $500,000 per claimant.

How the Statute of Limitations Affects Settlements

According to AP News, these settlements were paid to victims who did not have the option to file a civil lawsuit due to the expiration of the statute of limitations for their cases. Instead, they filed claims with the individual compensation program offered by the diocese. Each diocese offered lower settlements since the claimants lacked the leverage provided by the ability to file a lawsuit.

In 2019, the statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims was extended until the victim reaches 55 years of age. If you were younger than 30 in 2019, the new statute of limitations applies to you. 

However, this law was not retroactive for people who were already 30 or older in 2019. This means you cannot file a civil lawsuit if you were 30 or older in 2019 because the statute of limitations had expired. However, there is hope. 

The state legislature is currently working on the Child Victims Act, which will provide a two-year lookback window for sexual abuse victims for whom the statute of limitations has expired. This would allow previously time-barred survivors to file a civil lawsuit during a specified two-year window.

We support this reform, and we believe it is only a matter of time before it becomes law. We are ready to take on your case and fight for you. Contact us today to learn how the statute of limitations applies to your specific situation.

Sexual Abuse Settlements and Verdicts in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania survivors of sexual abuse who have been able to file lawsuits in Pennsylvania have won significantly higher settlements, more in line with the amount that sexual abuse survivors need and deserve.

"I cannot praise the Cordisco and Saile team enough for their outstanding service. From the moment we reached out to them to the conclusion of my sister’s case, their commitment to excellence was evident. Their communication was impeccable, always ensuring we were informed and comfortable with every step in the process.Beyond just the attorneys the entire team displayed a high level of professionalism and coordination in particular their paralegal Maria was outstanding. It was clear that they were all working seamlessly together with a single purpose in mind – securing the best outcome for their client. And they did just that for my sister. What truly set them apart, however, was their genuine concern for my sister’s best interest. At every juncture, I felt confident that they were not only fighting for her but also looking out for her overall well-being. If anyone is in need of top-notch legal representation, I would wholeheartedly recommend this firm. Their excellence in both expertise and client care is truly commendable."

$2 Million Settlement in Erie

The Diocese of Erie agreed to pay $2 million to a man who was abused as a minor from 2002 to 2010 by David Poulson, a former Catholic priest at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Fryburg and St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Cambridge Springs, according to CNN. 

WPXI Now reported that the abuse occurred more than 20 times while the victim served as an altar boy in various rectories. According to the report, Mr. Poulson forced the boy to confess the abuse to him each time it occurred.

The victim was one of two victims named in the criminal prosecution against Mr. Poulson, which has resulted in a conviction and prison term of two-and-a-half to 14 years. According to prosecutors, Mr. Poulson also took the two boys to a primitive hunting camp, viewed horror movies, and abused them. They were eight and 15 years old at the time.

Nearly $1 Million Settlement in Harrisburg

According to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on Catholic Church sex abuse, the Diocese of Harrisburg agreed to a settlement of nearly a million dollars for child sex abuse perpetrated by now-former priest Augustine Giella, who served in St. Joseph’s Parish in York County beginning in 1980. 

In this case, Mr. Giella abused five sisters in the same family.  The abuse included fondling, bathing, taking nude photographs, and watching the girls use the restroom.

Mr. Giella was arrested in 1992 after police found multiple incriminating items in Mr. Giella’s New Jersey residence, including soiled panties, used feminine sanitary products, sexually explicit photos of girls, vials of urine, and plastic containers containing pubic hairs.

The Diocese of Harrisburg had accepted this priest after he suddenly wanted to leave his previous assignment in New Jersey. Several women in New Jersey have come forward with allegations that Mr. Giella also molested them. The Diocese of Harrisburg never investigated his reasons for the sudden reassignment request.

Additionally, the diocese failed to act on a report from a teacher that Mr. Giella was sexually abusing the girls.

$900,000 Settlement in Pittsburgh

The Diocese of Pittsburgh settled with the family of two brothers who were victimized by Richard Zula, a former Catholic priest who sexually assaulted the boys for three years. The assault included oral sex, sadomasochism, and attempted anal sex. At least one victim was younger than 16 throughout the abuse.  The settlement included a lump sum of $500,000 with another $400,000 to be paid over the course of 30 years. Mr. Zula was criminally prosecuted and served approximately two years in prison. The Diocese of Pittsburgh advocated for leniency throughout his prosecution and awarded him a check for $11,542.68 upon his release.

$305,000 Settlement in Allentown

The Diocese of Allentown agreed to a settlement of $305,000 with a man sexually assaulted by Joseph Rock, a former priest. The abuse allegedly began with Mr. Rock fondling the victim over his clothing when he was in fourth or fifth grade. By the time he was 12 or 13, the priest had progressed to reaching down his pants. The victim was in the company of the priest approximately three times every week, and the abuse occurred nearly every time, according to the victim, who recounted that under the concealment of Mr. Rock’s robes, the abuse even occurred in the presence of his parents. According to the victim, Mr. Rock told him the abuse was a blessing and that the victim would go to hell if he told anyone. The diocese paid Mr. Rock’s legal fees in the civil lawsuit, despite receiving child sex abuse complaints from multiple victims.

$3 Million Settlement in Lackawanna County

The Diocese of Scranton has agreed to pay a $3 million settlement in the lawsuit filed by the victim of former priest Albert M. Libertore, Jr., who sexually abused an altar boy for five years from 1999 to 2004. During the abuse, he transported him to New York so he could give him alcohol.  Libertore was criminally charged in Pennsylvania and New York and pleaded guilty in both cases.

How Sex Abuse Settlement Amounts Are Determined

The amount of compensation you can recover in a sexual abuse lawsuit will depend on the specific details of your case, including the following:

  • The type of abuse
  • The long-term effects of the abuse
  • The suffering you experienced during the abuse
  • Your suffering in the years following the abuse
  • Your age at the time of the abuse
  • The duration of the abuse
  • The conduct of the church or other organization surrounding the abuse
  • The financial losses you have suffered as a result of the abuse

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, adverse childhood experiences can cause prolonged activation of stress hormones, resulting in toxic stress. This can impact learning, behavior, and health. As a result, childhood sex abuse can impact every aspect of adult life, including the following:

  • Healthcare costs
  • Academic potential
  • Education
  • Earning capacity
  • The ability to maintain employment
  • Relationships
  • Social status
  • Therapy costs
  • Medication

These losses are incalculable, and sexual abuse survivors deserve significant compensation that provides a lifetime of financial security while covering past and future medical and therapy costs that stem from the abuse.

What Types of Compensation Does a Sex Abuse Settlement Include?

Sex abuse settlements may include economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are compensation for provable documented monetary losses. It includes past, present, and future monetary losses, such as the following:
  • Medical expenses
  • The cost of therapy
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Loss of educational opportunities

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are compensation for subjective losses that are not easily quantified. These damages involve losses related to your quality of life and emotional effects from the abuse. Non-economic damages include the following:

  • Physical pain
  • Emotional distress
  • Suffering
  • Humiliation
  • Inconvenience
  • Loss of society
  • Loss of capacity to enjoy life
  • Loss of bodily functions

Calculating non-economic damages in sexual abuse cases is not an exact science because these types of losses do not have a verifiable dollar value like economic losses. Generally, the following factors may increase your non-economic damages: 

  • Younger age during the abuse
  • Longer duration of abuse
  • Abuse that includes penetration or bodily injury
  • Subsequent maltreatment by the church, school, or other institution where the abuse occurred
  • Provable significant long-term effects from the abuse

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages in Pennsylvania are awarded as a punishment against an offender for intentionally causing harm or displaying evil intent while causing harm. If you were sexually abused in an institution or religious organization that flagrantly allowed or actively concealed the abuse, you may be eligible for punitive damages.

How Cordisco & Saile Can Help

When you are ready to stand up to your abuser and the institution that aided and abetted the abuse, you need an attorney who is dedicated, passionate, and willing to fight for you. 

At Cordisco & Saile, we have built a successful track record of winning substantial verdicts and settlements for our satisfied clients because we are unwilling to accept less than the amount you rightfully deserve. Our clients know we truly care about them, and we regularly receive unsolicited client testimonials such as the following:

“They truly care about their clients and want the absolute best outcome possible for them. Each question and/or concern I had along the way was addressed instantly whenever I called or wrote an email….It was such a good feeling all the days after to know I had the support that I did from them. I can’t thank Mr. Cordisco and his team enough for their dedication and hard work on my case.”

“Everyone there is amazing, they push for you and have your back 100%. I’ve recommended many people because they are a family to you, not just a lawyer's office. I love the wonderful staff at Cordisco.”

Sexual abuse of an innocent child is one of the most heinous acts imaginable. The abuse was not your fault, and you deserve happiness and fulfillment. While financial compensation cannot make the pain of sexual abuse go away, it can relieve the financial strain you have endured due to the abuse.

We serve all of Pennsylvania with offices in the following locations:

Contact us now for a free, confidential consultation.

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