Penn State Looking at Huge Legal Bill in Wake of Sandusky Child Sexual Abuse Scandal

Penn State University, former Nittany Lions’ head coach Joe Paterno, and others tainted by the <"">Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal could face substantial civil liabilities. According to a report from the Daily Beast, at least two lawyers in Pennsylvania are already preparing civil suits against Penn State, even as prosecutors identify more of Sandusky’s alleged victims.

One of the attorneys interviewed by the Daily Beast also said he expected more victims to come forward as they realize they are “not alone.” The same attorney told ABC News that lawsuits could also include officials at Penn State – including Paterno – and The Second Mile who did not report Sandusky’s alleged assaults.

In an interview with Good Morning America, newly appointed Penn State University President Rodney Erickson, indicated the university was bracing for a legal assault.

“We understand there will be lawsuits filed. We’re prepared to do the right thing for all the victims. We will do everything we can do … We’re going to engage in a wide range of programming that will raise the issue of child sex abuse, to make this a national issue,” Erickson said.

Lawsuits will most certainly exact a financial toll on the university. According to a report from CBS News, Moody’s Investors Service last week said it would review Penn State’s Aa1 bond rating for a possible downgrade because of the reputational and financial risk stemming from the sexual abuse scandal at the university. Damages could swell from millions to billions of dollars, depending on how many victims come forward, CBS said.

Already, more accusers are emerging against Sandusky, who faces charges in Pennsylvania that he sexually abused 8 boys over a period of 15 years. According to the Pennsylvania Attorney General, Sandusky used his Second Mile youth charity to prey on young boys, and met his alleged victims through the organization. According to The New York Times, at least 10 other alleged abuse victims have come forward since Sandusky’s November 5 arrest. State Police also say their tip line has been inundated with calls regarding Sandusky, and they are working to confirm additional allegations.

Sandusky served as an assistant football coach at Penn State until his retirement at the end of the 1999 season. According to a grand jury report released by Pennsylvania investigators last week, Paterno, 84, heard a graphic retelling in 2002 from a then-graduate assistant coach of an alleged incident of child sexual abuse committed by Sandusky in the shower of the Penn State football building. Though Paterno reported the allegation to his superiors, he did not pursue the matter further. Those superiors spoke to Sandusky, and banned him from bringing children onto the Penn State main campus (though Sandusky himself was not banned from campus, and he was also allowed to run a youth football camp at a satellite campus for another six years).

Following the uproar created by the release of the grand jury report, Paterno announced last Wednesday that he would retire at the end of this season, his 46th as Nittany Lions head coach. But that night, the Penn State Board of Trustees announced the immediate firing of Paterno and university president Graham Spanier.

Two Penn State officials, athletic director Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz, PSU’s senior vice president for finance and business, were also arrested last week and charged with perjury and failure to report to authorities what they knew of the allegations, as required by state law in Pennsylvania. Both have resigned their positions with the university.

Pennsylvania state law enforcement officials said that while Paterno had met his legal obligation in alerting his superiors, he failed on a moral level by not doing more. The same officials also charged that inaction on the part of Penn State University allowed more children to become victims of abuse at the hands of Sandusky.

This entry was posted in Child Sexual Abuse, Legal News. Bookmark the permalink.

© 2005-2019 Parker Waichman LLP ®. All Rights Reserved.