Victims of sexual assault, rape, or other violent crimes often feel lost and unable to figure out how to get justice in the legal system. At Sanford Heisler Sharp, we have extensive expertise in holding liable not only the individual perpetrator but also the institutions that allowed the crimes to happen. Our attorneys draw on more than 30 years of experience in crime victim advocacy to provide survivors with exceptional legal representation in their efforts to find some measure of justice.
In the wake of landmark cases against Larry Nassar, Jeffrey Epstein, and others, many law firms claim to be experts in representing survivors. Sanford Heisler Sharp’s Criminal/Sexual Violence Litigation group is different in three primary ways:
- We take a victim-centered approach. Our attorneys and staff are specially trained in trauma-informed advocacy. In addition, we work closely with treating mental health providers, trauma experts and non-profit partners to minimize the impact of the legal system on our clients and work creatively to achieve results that help our clients move forward and heal.
- In addition to representing survivors in their civil suits, we advocate for our clients as they navigate the criminal prosecution of the perpetrator. Our team helps protect a survivor’s individual rights in the criminal justice process, including the right to privacy, to protection, and to restitution. The criminal/sexual violence litigation group is co-led by Steven Kelly – an advocate who helped to draft a number of crime victim protections and to enact them into law, and Christine Dunn – a former federal prosecutor who applied these laws in the real-world context. Our team has achieved great results in strengthening and applying the protections that every crime victim is entitled to.
- We have the resources necessary to bring multi-victim cases against powerful institutions. Sanford Heisler Sharp is one of the leading civil rights class action firms in the country—having achieved record civil rights verdicts and settlements. We have brought the firm’s class action expertise to bear in a number of multi-victim sexual violence cases, including cases against Dartmouth College and Columbia University.
Our attorneys are knowledgeable and well-prepared to help survivors through the criminal and civil justice systems. We have successfully litigated cases involving Title IX, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, premises liability, drunk driving, and crimes resulting from the wrongful service of alcohol.
- Title IX: When sexual violence occurs at a school, we hold educational institutions liable under Title IX for failing to prevent sexual violence, properly investigate allegations, or provide adequate accommodations to the survivor. Title IX claims can be brought against any education program that receives federal money, including colleges, universities, K-12 schools, and sometimes private schools. Attorneys at Sanford Heisler Sharp have achieved excellent results in Title IX cases, including against Columbia University; Towson University; Old Dominion University; Morgan State University; the Montgomery County, Maryland School Board; and the Prince George’s County, Maryland School Board.
- Child Sexual Abuse: Our attorneys routinely pursue cases against institutions, such as schools and daycares, for failing to keep children safe from sexual abuse. Any person or organization charged with the duty to protect minors can be held liable when an employee or volunteer has sexual contact with a child. Because many states have extended deadlines for child sex abuse cases, you may have a viable claim even if the crime occurred long ago. Attorneys at Sanford Heisler Sharp have vast experience litigating child sexual abuse cases and have helped clients in their claims against powerful entities including the Catholic Church, Celebree, Old Dominion University, and St. Paul’s School.
- Sexual Assault: Survivors of rape and sexual violence can also file a civil lawsuit against the individual perpetrator, even if no criminal charges are brought or if the perpetrator was found not guilty during the criminal trial. Attorneys at Sanford Heisler Sharp have brought suits against many perpetrators, including a major league baseball player accused of rape, a CEO who sexually assaulted a woman who did a training for his company, and a psychiatrist who sexually abused his patient.
- Premises Liability: In premises liability cases, we hold property owners liable when they fail to take sufficient steps to protect guests or patrons from suffering harm, including from criminal acts. Crimes at shopping centers, apartments, hotels, banks, ATMs, and other businesses are premises liability cases. Sanford Heisler Sharp has pursued cases against business owners on behalf of clients who experienced sexual assault, physical assault, or the wrongful death of a loved one – even when the perpetrator had no connection to the business.
- Drunk Driving: Survivors of drunk driving accidents have the right to seek compensation from the people who caused the accident as well as their insurance company. Attorneys at Sanford Heisler Sharp can advocate for survivors of drunk driving accidents to ensure they receive the maximum recovery.
- Crimes Resulting from the Wrongful Service of Alcohol (“Dram Shop” cases): Sanford Heisler Sharp pursues cases against bar owners who “overserve” an intoxicated person or furnish alcohol to a minor. Those bar owners can be held liable for criminal acts committed by the offender, including sexual assault and drunk driving, or for criminal acts committed against the person to whom alcohol was wrongfully provided.
If you or a member of your family is a survivor of a crime, please contact Sanford Heisler Sharp’s Criminal/Sexual Violence Litigation group to discuss your potential legal claims.