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Civil Lawsuits for Sexual Assault of Intellectually Impaired

Sexual assault of the intellectually impaired in California is too common than it should be. Civil lawsuits provide one remedy for these tragedies. Californians who have intellectual disabilities are much more vulnerable than others. Unfortunately, this vulnerability makes them much likelier to be the victims of sexual assaults. These assaults may be perpetrated by the victims’ friends, caretakers or family members. When people are victims of sexual assault, they might want to consider filing lawsuits against the abusers even if the abusers are also being criminally prosecuted.

Epidemic of Sexual Assaults Among Intellectually Disabled People

National Public Radio recently conducted an in-depth review of data from the Department of Justice in order to determine the extent of the problem of sexual assaults committed against intellectually disabled people. They found that people who have intellectual disabilities are seven times likelier to be the victims of sexual assaults than are others. They also found that many of the cases are not prosecuted, allowing the abusers to continue assaulting the victims and others. Part of the problem is that some people do not believe intellectually disabled people are telling the truth about being sexual assault victims.

Where do Sexual Assaults Against the Intellectually Disabled Occur?

People who have intellectual disabilities are often assaulted in their homes by people whom they know. They may be assaulted at any time of the day. Others are assaulted in institutional settings or at day programs. The perpetrators may include their caretakers, immediate or extended family members and other people who have intellectual disabilities. Predators may view intellectually disabled people as easy targets for abuse because they tend to be more compliant and trusting.

Why File Lawsuits for Sexual Assaults?

Sexual assault cases involving intellectually disabled victims may be more difficult for prosecutors to prove. Some of the victims are unable to speak well, and they may be likelier to change their stories when others coerce them to do so. These problems may lead prosecutors to avoid filing criminal charges in some cases. Criminal cases must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt before a perpetrator may be found guilty. This is a higher burden of proof than the burden that plaintiffs in civil cases have. In a civil sexual assault lawsuit, plaintiffs have the burden to prove that the defendants committed the offenses by a preponderance of the evidence. The lower burden of proof means that victims may be able to hold their abusers liable for the harms that they have suffered even if the perpetrators are not criminally prosecuted or are found not guilty in criminal cases.

Grounds for Liability in California Sexual Assaults Against Intellectually Disabled People

There are several different potential grounds for liability in California for sexual assaults that are perpetrated on the intellectually disabled. In cases involving sex between dependent adults and others inside of a facility or under the care of a caregiver, the facility or caregiver may hold liability under a theory of negligent supervision. In order to prove negligent supervision, the plaintiff must prove that the facility hired the perpetrator, and the perpetrator was unfit to do the job for which he or she was hired. The plaintiff must also prove that the facility either knew or should have known that the perpetrator was unfit to do the job and that his or her unfitness placed others at particular risk. The plaintiff must then prove that the perpetrator committed the sexual assault against him or her, and the employer’s negligent supervision was a substantial factor. Victims may also be able to prove that an employer negligently retained or hired their abusers.

Employers may hold vicarious liability for the actions of their employees in some cases. However, there is a caveat to this principle under California law. In Lisa M. v. Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital , 12 Cal. 4th 294 (1995), the California Supreme Court held that vicarious liability will only apply if the intentional act of the worker was engendered by his or her employment. In that case, a woman who went to get an ultrasound after falling in a theater was sexually assaulted by an ultrasound technician. The court found that the hospital had not negligently retained, hired or supervised him and that his intentional conduct was not engendered by his job. Instead, his actions arose entirely from himself, so the court found that the hospital was not vicariously liable.


Plaintiffs who prevail in their civil sexual assault case are entitled to monetary compensation for their medical expenses. They may also recover compensation for their pain and suffering. In addition, as we have previously explained, dependent adults have several other civil remedies available to them. They may recover their attorneys’ fees and costs, and they may also recover punitive damages.

Duty to Report

California also mandates that people who work in facilities with dependent adults have a duty to report abuse, neglect and suspected abuse or neglect, including sexual assaults. If staff members or the homes have failed to report the sexual assaults as required by law, they may be liable for their failure.

Contact an Experienced Sexual Assault Lawyer in Los Angeles

If your loved one is intellectually disabled and has been the victim of a sexual assault, it is important for you to get legal advice. An experienced civil sexual assault lawyer in Los Angeles may help to hold the abuser accountable for his or her actions. Contact us today to schedule your appointment so that you might learn more about your rights.

Client Reviews
I have known Steven for some time now and when his services were required he jumped in and took control of my cases. I had two and they were handled with the utmost professionalism and courtesy. He went the extra mile regardless of the bumps in the road. I can not see me using any other attorney and I would recommend him to any of my family and friends. Josie A.
Steven was vital during our most trying time. He was referred by a friend after an accident that involved a family member. While he was critical and lying in the hospital, Steven was kind, patient and knowledgeable about what we were going through. Following our loss, Steven became a tough and aggressive negotiator and made sure that we receive a huge compensation. I would refer Steven in fact, this happened 2 years ago and I still speak highly of his service. Cheryl S.
Mr. Sweat is a pitbull in the courtroom as well as settlement negotiations - You can't have a better equipped attorney in your corner! It is a pleasure working as colleagues together on numerous cases. He can get the job done. Jonathan K.
Because of Steven Sweat, my medical support was taken care of. Plus, I had more money to spare for my other bills. Steven is not only an excellent personal injury lawyer, providing the best legal advice, but also a professional lawyer who goes beyond his call of duty just to help his clients! He stood up for me and helped me get through the process. I would definitely recommend. I couldn't think of any better lawyer than him. MiraJane C.
I must tell anyone, if you need a great attorney, Steve sweat is the guy! I had an awful car accident and had no idea where to turn. He had so much to deal with because my accident was a 4 car pile up. Not to mention all the other cars were behind me and they were not wanting to settle in any way! He never stopped working for me and had my best interest at heart! Audra W.
I believe I made the best choice with Steven M Sweat, Personal Injury. I was very reluctant to go forward with my personal injury claim. I had a valid claim and I needed a professional attorney to handle it. I felt so much better when I let Steven take my case. His team did everything right and I am very satisfied. Stia P.
I have to say that Steve has been exemplary! I met Steve at a point with my case that I was ready to give up. He took the time and dealt with all of my concerns. Most importantly, he was present and listened to what I was going through. He was able to turn things around, put me and my case on the right track! The results were better that expected! Highly recommend!! Cody A.