L.A. County Sex Abuse Payouts Could Rival Those of Catholic Church

On January 1, 2020, a new California law took effect, giving victims of child sex abuse more time to file legal claims. Previously, victims could not initiate a suit for child sex abuse after their 26th birthday. The Child Victims Act extended that window to age 40.

The Child Victims Act has increased potential liability for a number of local governments. But no alleged offender has been more greatly impacted than Los Angeles County.

Recent budget documents show Los Angeles County expects to spend between $1.6 billion and $3 billion to settle some 3,000 sexual abuse claims dating back to the 1950s. If that holds, this would represent one of world’s largest sex abuse scandals and the largest single sex abuse settlement in history.

“The thing that’s so disturbing from our perspective is they throw this out as a line in some budget document — and, if it’s true, it would be the most massive sex abuse scandal imaginable,” attorney Stewart Mollrich told the Los Angeles Times. “It would be on the order of what we’ve seen from the Catholic Church.” 

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles reached a $660-million settlement with victims in 2007. Worldwide, the Catholic Church has paid around $4 billion to settle abuse claims.

Even with the extended statute of limitations, no other local government has come anywhere near this level of liability. Riverside County says it is facing 13 cases, while Orange County has nine.

According to the Times, Los Angeles officials are “considering taking out bonds, dipping into their rainy day fund or shrinking department budgets” to cover the cost. They’ve hired 11 law firms to work on the cases.

The biggest challenges these lawyers will face is a lack of documentation because so many of the old records have been destroyed.   

“We’re behind the eightball,” County Supervisor Kathryn Barger told Air Talk. “We have no defense because we don’t keep records that far back.”