L.A. Archdiocese drops support for LAUSD efforts in sex abuse case

Los Angeles Times

Oct. 23, 2015

Teresa Watanabe

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles abruptly dropped its support for efforts by the Los Angeles Unified School District to make it more difficult to hold institutions liable for employees who commit sexual abuse.

In a letter to the California Supreme Court this week, archdiocesan attorneys had objected to an appellate court’s ruling that plaintiffs only prove that an institution knew an employee had a “potential” for sexual abuse instead of a “dangerous propensity,” as the trial court judge had instructed jurors in the L.A. Unified case.

In that case, the district argued a 14-year-old girl was partly to blame for sexual abuse by her then-math teacher at Edison Middle School during 2010 and 2011. The teacher, Elkis Hermida, was convicted of lewd conduct with a minor and sentenced to three years in state prison, but the girl has filed a civil suit against L.A. Unified, claiming negligence.

A jury found that L.A. Unified was not liable because the girl and the teacher concealed their behavior from school officials. But the Court of Appeal reversed that decision last month, saying that L.A. Superior Court Judge Lawrence Cho erred in using the “dangerous propensity” standard and in allowing evidence of the girl’s past sexual history and arguments that she was partly to blame for her abuse. The appellate court ordered a new civil trial.

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