Youth Welcome Center – Brittany, 16, yells: “All you need to know is that I hate this place and I hate the law!” Photo by Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times. Image source.

Decades of failures leave L.A. County facing up to $3 billion in sex abuse claims

Los Angeles Times


As California legislators prepared to pass a law providing victims of childhood sexual abuse a new window to file lawsuits, the bill’s chief backer recalls most of the resistance coming from entities with famously troubled histories: school districts, colleges and youth athletic groups, along with some of their insurance companies.

Los Angeles County “just didn’t come up,” said former Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego), who sponsored the Child Victims Act.

But three years after the law went into effect, L.A. County — responsible for facilities meant to protect and rehabilitate the region’s youth — has emerged in court filings as one of the biggest alleged institutional offenders.

Two weeks ago, in an otherwise dry budget document, county officials delivered figures that stunned even some of the most seasoned California sex abuse attorneys. County officials predicted that they may be forced to spend between $1.6 billion and $3 billion to resolve roughly 3,000 claims of sexual abuse that allegedly took place in the county’s foster homes, children shelters, and probation camps and halls dating to the 1950s.

The county is gearing up to litigate the cases, bringing on 11 law firms to work through the claims — many of which they can’t investigate, they say, because they no longer have the relevant records. Veteran sex abuse attorneys are calling for an outside investigation, saying that not even they realized the full scope of the alleged abuse taking place in county facilities.

Experts say the volume is unlike anything they’ve heard of in local government. A spokesperson for Riverside County says it has had 13 cases associated with the Child Victims Act. Orange County says it has had nine such claims.

There is only one apt comparison, attorneys say: the Catholic Church.

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Published on May 10, 2023

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