Childhood Sexual Abuse

Notable Accomplishments

How We Began Representing Survivors

After decades of fighting for the “little guy” in civil rights lawsuits against corrupt government officials and others, in December 2003 the man who would become the Firm’s first abuse survivor client walked in the office door.  He explained that after the Boston revelations began in January 2002, nine long years of sexual abuse which he had suffered from ages 9 to 17 at the hands of a priest of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales began to surface in bits and pieces in his memory.  These memories had been previously psychologically repressed due to the trauma he endured for so many years.  He had already gone to the criminal authorities, but was told there was nothing they could do because too much time had passed.  He wanted to know if the civil courts could help him protect kids and hold accountable those who knew about the abuse but had covered it up.  He had been looking for an attorney, but no one was willing to take his case and challenge the Catholic Church.  And so the Firm’s involvement in this long battle began.

Significant Court Decisions

Hecksher v. Fairwinds Baptist Church, Inc. (Del. 2015), 115 A.3d. 1187 (Del. 2015) (en banc):

Sheehan v. Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, 15 A.3d. 1247 (Del. 2011) (en banc):

Whitwell v. Archmere Academy, Inc., 2008 WL 1735370 (Del.Super. April 16, 2008)

Eden v. Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, 2006 WL 3512482 (Del.Super. Dec. 4, 2006) (recognizing repressed memory as a valid means of tolling the statute of limitations in childhood sexual abuse cases)

McClure v. Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, Inc., C.A.No. 06C-12-235-CLS (Del.Super. Apr. 7, 2009) (holding that traumatic amnesia/repressed memory is medically and scientifically sound and admissible under the expert testimony standards set forth in Daubert and Rule 702)

Keller v. Maccubbin, C.A.No. K11C-03-015-RBY (Del.Super. May 16, 2012) (reaffirming the traumatic amnesia holdings of Eden and McClure and explaining that “As Delaware has come to realize, injury caused by child sexual abuse can, and does, extend far beyond that which is associated with a typical battery … the effects thereof present concerns much greater than those associated with the typical physical injury.”)

Eden v. Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, 2007 WL 4722830 (Del.Super. Dec. 14, 2007) (striking down a priest’s efforts to hide behind the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and instead requiring the priest to answer deposition questions about his sexual abuse of a young boy in Delaware and New Jersey).

Whitwell v. Archmere Academy, C.A.No. 07C-08-006 (Del.Super. Feb. 22, 2008) (ordering a priest to answer deposition questions about his sexual abuse of a young boy in Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, despite the priest’s efforts to hide behind the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination).

Elliott v. The Marist Brothers of the Schools, Inc., C.A.No. 09-611-SLR (D.Del. Sept. 21, 2010) (holding that a priest’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination did not bar the Court from ordering that the priest answer deposition questions about his sexual abuse of a young boy in Delaware, New Jersey and New York)

Whitwell v. Archmere Academy, Inc., C.A.No. 07C-08-006-RBY (Del.Super. May 29, 2008) (refusing to recognize an adjudicated abuser priest’s psychotherapist-patient privilege in childhood sexual abuse cases and instead holding that the psychotherapist may be deposed about his treatment of the priest and his records opened for discovery)

Sheehan v. Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, C.A.No. 07C-11-234 (Del.Super. Nov. 6, 2009) (holding that former Benedictine monk and Catholic priest A.W. Richard Sipe is qualified as an expert witness under Rule 702 by reason of his extensive experience, education and numerous publications on issues of clergy sexual abuse to testify about, inter alia, “code words and euphemisms used within Religious Orders and Dioceses to describe sexual misconduct by priests”)

Heaney v. Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, et al., C.A.No. 08C-11-097-CLS (Del.Super. May 11, 2009) (denying the Catholic Church’s efforts to dismiss a case brought by the father of a young boy who suffered three years of sexual abuse by his parish priest and thereafter committed suicide and holding that the Delaware Child Victim’s Act of 2007 revived survival actions brought by the next of kin of such an innocent child)

John Yoe #1 v. Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, Inc., C.A.No. 09C-06-188-CLS (Del.Super. Mar. 15, 2010) (holding that a survivor of priest sexual abuse may proceed anonymously using a pseudonym because “sexual abuse is a highly sensitive and personal matter … Plaintiff’s desire to remain anonymous is understandable and Plaintiff’s interest in protecting his identity outweighs any interest in favor of open judicial proceedings”)

Jane Doe #1 v. Laurel School District, C.A.No. 09C-06-020-WLW (Del.Super. Dec. 19, 2011) (holding that an abuse survivor may file suit using a pseudonym when a medical professional attested that using the survivor’s real name would negatively impact their treatment and recovery)

Quill v. Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, Inc., 2008 WL 193000 (D.Del. Jan. 23, 2008) (recognizing the right of a federal court to hear lawsuits brought under the Delaware Child Victim’s Act of 2007).

Moving Forward

The Firm represents abuse survivors in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and throughout the country.