The costs of failing to prevent sexual abuse have been rising sharply for at least the last ten years, but in the last few days, they have leaped up to new potential highs.
The largest settlement we were aware of for an individual victim of relatively current sexual abuse (sexual abuse committed within the last 5 years) was, until this week, $40m. That exceeded the second-highest value of $25m by some way.
Yet this week, a New Mexico jury has awarded $485M in the case of an 8-year-old girl who was repeatedly sexually assaulted in foster care.
Much of the evidence presented in the case dealt not with the abuse itself but with the alleged negligence of the organizations that were supposed to have protected the little girl. She was raped repeatedly after being placed in the home of someone known to have prior accusations of sexual assault.
According to papers filed in the case, the principal safeguarding agency allegedly “had unqualified employees, was understaffed, failed to follow or enforce policies and procedures, engaged in a pattern and practice of merely placing foster children to fill beds, and had incidents of physical and sexual assaults of foster children by foster families.”
As one of the plaintiff’s attorneys said after the case, “I think the jury’s award and verdict show the little girl she is valued and that what happened to her shouldn’t have happened.” It certainly did.