Jerry Sandusky guilty verdict could prompt slew of Penn State lawsuits
University braced for legal action amid claims that it failed in its duty of care for failing to report sexual abuse to police
For Penn State University, the conviction of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is unlikely to mark the end of a damaging chapter in its history.
With Sandusky, a predatory abuser of vulnerable boys, now in jail – possibly for the rest of his life – attention is likely to turn to the failings that allowed him to get away with the abuse for so long, and compensation the college may be forced to pay to his victims.
At least one lawsuit has already been filed by a man who claims that Penn State failed in its duty of care, and neglected to protect him from Sandusky. Many more are expected following Friday's guilty verdict.
Meanwhile, two formal investigations – one led by a former director of the FBI – are under way, looking into why Sandusky was not turned over to the police, despite warnings.
There is also further criminal action in regards to the case that could tarnish the university's already badly-damaged reputation.
Former college athletic director Tim Curley and finance official Gary Schultz have been charged with perjury and failing to alert authorities to one act of sexual abuse.
In the trial of Sandusky, the court heard that both men were approached by Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant to the football team, after he witnessed what he thought was Sandusky sodomising a boy in the showers.
Last week, NBC reported that it had seen emails in which Curley, Schultz and former Penn State president Graham Spanier discussed how to handle McQueary's report.
It was agreed by Spanier and Schultz, according to NBC, that it would be "humane" not to report Sandusky to social services agencies.
If found guilty of covering up his crimes, it could bolster claims that Penn State is liable for compensation by those abused.
"Their trial will be much more an indictment of Penn State," said Max Kennerly, a Philadelphia lawyer who is not involved in the case.
Much is at stake, both in terms of reputation and finances.
With $4.6bn in operating revenue reported for the last fiscal year and an endowment topping $1.8bn, Penn State is a wealthy institution, and could be seen as a ripe target by litigation lawyers.
In the one known lawsuit facing the college, the claimant is demanding $50,000 in damages - the standard amount in Pennsylvania's legal system to trigger hearings being heard in front of a jury.
During the Sandusky trial, the court heard from eight victims out of a total of 10 alleged by prosecutors in the case to have been abused.
But reports suggest that the total number of victims could be closer to 20. Many could have been waiting for the completion of the criminal case before they issued writs.
On Friday, Penn State issued a statement in which it encouraged victims to engage in discussions with a view to settling any claims.
"The university plans to invite victims of Mr Sandusky's abuse to participate in a program to facilitate the resolution of claims against the university arising out of Mr Sandusky's conduct," it read.
"The purpose of the program is simple – the university wants to provide a forum where the university can privately, expeditiously and fairly address the victims' concerns and compensate them for claims relating to the university."
Meanwhile, two formal probes have been launched by the university's board of trustees in a bid to discover who knew about allegations of abuse, and why suspicions were never passed on to the police.
As well as the compensation of victims, the university may also suffer from a dip in donations given the unfavourable light cast on the college.
The abuse, and its handling, have already badly dented Penn State's reputation. The question now is how complicit it was in the crimes going undetected for so long, and how much it will have to pay financially – as well as in renown – before it can move on from the whole sorry affair.
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