The Georgia Lawsuit That Sparked a National Debate on Child Sexual Abuse

The Georgia Lawsuit That Sparked a National Debate on Child Sexual Abuse

A confidential settlement agreement was reached in the Georgia lawsuit against USA Gymnastics following a curious sequence of pretrial developments. This settlement will likely affect other lawsuits across the nation, according to a report on the case by the Daily Report. The plaintiff was a former gymnast, only named as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, who filed an action against Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics the national governing body for Olympic gymnastics. The suit also named a former coach, William McCabe, who is presently serving a 30-year federal prison sentence. McCabe was found guilty of child sexual abuse in connection with another case.

 

“Ground-Zero” Case

Doe alleged that USA Gymnastics failed to protect her from McCabe despite other warnings about the former coach. Doe claims that McCabe took secret videos of her undressing in the changing room at his gym when she was a mere 11 years old and published them on the internet. Doe’s lawyer stated to the Daily Report that he had been working on the case for the past 12 years. The Doe case did not settle until discovery materials in its case prompted an Indianapolis Star investigation on the issue. The investigative reporting resulted in 156 women testifying that they had been sexual abused by ex-Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar.

After the Nassar guilty plea, USA Gymnastics settled multiple other pending lawsuits for undisclosed amounts. Nonetheless, the Georgia Doe case moved forward toward its April, 2018 trial date. After a five-hour-long pretrial hearing in March, according to Doe’s attorney, the defense seemed to have adjusted its position after the judge did not rule on defense’s motion in limine but, rather, indicated which side he was leaning toward and ordered a settlement conference and lined up a mediator in lieu of issuing an order. At the end of the day-long settlement conference, the parties were able to agree to a settlement amount.

 

Work Not Done Yet

While Doe’s case ended successfully, there are several sexual abuse victims in the state of Georgia who will not be able to file suit in these types of claims because of the current law on the issue. Presently, there is a proposed bill known as the “Hidden Predator Act” that the legislature has yet to pass. The bill seeks to expand the filing time period for lawsuits by survivors of sexual abuse during their childhood. Under current law, the age requirement is 23, even though the average age at disclosure of childhood sexual abuse by adult survivors is nearly two decades later, at 42. Doe’s attorney waited as long as possible to file suit to ensure she was mature enough to withstand the trauma of trial that was likely to result.

 

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Jane Doe