Because while the former head coach of the Penn State football team has escaped criminal penalty in the Jerry Sandusky scandal, civil liability will be a whole different ballgame.
Penn State is going to be hit with so many civil suits over this mess that the only mirth in Happy Valley will belong to the lawyers. The only people who should be standing on Paterno’s lawn are attorneys on retainer. Things are going to get so ugly for the old football coach — and everybody on his staff, and pretty much every university official — than he can’t possibly fully appreciate it. I just hope he’s more prepared for his depositions than his press conferences.
Obviously, we don’t yet have all the facts. But just looking at the Grand Jury report should tell you that civil actions are coming….
You should read the grand jury report (available here, courtesy of CBS) to get a sense of just how serious this scandal is. Paterno was allegedly told that Sandusky was caught having anal sex with a ten-year-old in a shower. The coach did what he was supposed to do after that, from a criminal standpoint.
From a civil standpoint, the coach may have already admitted liability. From the New York Daily News:
According to New York defense and civil rights attorney Tom Harvey, Paterno’s lack of action in enforcing a ban on Sandusky bringing children onto the campus, as well Paterno’s admission that he should have “done more,” opened the door for massive litigation by the victims of the alleged sexual abuse by Sandusky…
“As far as civil liability, Joe Paterno will almost certainly be named as a defendant in the expected slew of victim lawsuits that will be filed in the coming months,” Harvey told the Daily News. “The issue will be what duty, if any, Paterno had with respect to protecting the minors that were allegedly abused on campus by Sandusky, a former Penn State employee who apparently had access to the football facilities and locker room. Did Paterno have a special duty to warn or protect these minors, especially after he became aware that there are allegations against Sandusky?”
It’s not so much about a “special duty” because Paterno is a famous football coach. It’s about the ordinary duty Paterno and others at Penn State have to prevent known sexual predators from succeeding. We don’t yet have all the facts about what Paterno knew, and when he knew it, and what he did about it. But we’re going to. . .”
–Above the Law has the full story.