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MacLaren Hall Sex Abuse in Los Angeles

MacLaren Hall (now known as Maclaren Children’s Center) was a children’s residential care center in Los Angeles County that closed in 2003. It is facing a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of then-minor residents who experienced sexual abuse while living at the facility. More victims may be eligible to file a lawsuit under California AB 218, a law expanding the statute of limitations for sexual abuse victims.

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    Sexual abuse is a terrifying experience, requiring years of recovery. Located in Los Angeles County, MacLaren Hall, also called Mac Hall, was supposed to be a haven for unwanted, abused, and abandoned children. Instead, it closed in disgrace in 2003, and some of its former residents have been speaking out about sexual abuse at the facility.

    Mac Hall opened its doors in the 1940s with the intent to house non-delinquent minors and keep them separated from other children who were guilty or accused of crimes. By the 1960s, that purpose had changed; Mac Hall now also included children from the county juvenile hall due to overcrowding and had grown to house over 4,000 children a year.

    Unfortunately, for decades up to the 1970s, the county probation department ran Mac Hall and operated it the same way they operated the prisons. Mac Hall had a 14-foot chain-link fence topped with five feet of barbed wire, with floodlights everywhere. 

    Violence was common, children frequently ran away, and the facility was notoriously overcrowded. Many former residents reported over-medication, beatings, use of restraints, rape, and other forms of sexual assault. Mac Hall had become a dangerous and traumatizing place instead of the sanctuary it had originally promised. 

    Plagued by complaints of child abuse and neglect, Los Angeles County finally shut down Mac Hall after the American Civil Liberties Union sued LA County for failing to provide sufficient medical care for the children. The ACLU also accused the County and the State of California of:

    • Overreliance on Mac Hall as more of a permanent housing facility rather than a temporary one.
    • Favoring budgetary decisions over choices made in the best interests of the children
    • Simply cataloging the mental health needs of children rather than providing requisite care
    • Dispensing minimal or no appropriate mental health treatments to children in need
    • Insufficient or no training for Mac Hall staff and other social workers

    The 2002 lawsuit was only the start of legal troubles for Los Angeles County. Recently, survivors began launching their own cases to speak out about the injustices they had suffered. One such suit alleged two social workers from the county Department of Children and Family Services had suspicions that a 15-year-old girl had been sexually assaulted by her mother and four men but did not inform the appropriate authorities. That lawsuit ended with a $20.6 million award from Los Angeles County.

    In June of 2022, another lawsuit was filed against the county on behalf of twelve more victims who allegedly suffered abuse at Mac Hall. The implications were clear; survivors of such horrors and mistreatments don’t have to sit by and suffer in silence. Did you or a loved one suffer sexual abuse, physical abuse, and other mistreatment at Maclaren Hall? You may be able to hold Los Angeles County liable not only for sexual abuse but also for negligent hiring and supervision. Los Angeles County, as the employer, knew or should have known that Mac Hall staff members were a risk to the residents at the facility. 

    Under California law, if you were a child when the sexual abuse at Mac Hall happened, you have until the age of 40 to sue Los Angeles County for the harm you suffered. However, there are two exceptions that can prolong the time you have to file a lawsuit even further.

    Victims, especially children, may not realize that sexual abuse actually happened until learning years later what sexual abuse is and how it affects them. Victims have five years to file a claim from the date they discover your abuse.

    The law also allows for a “lookback window.” Until December 31, 2022, there is a temporary “window” of opportunity to file a claim for sexual abuse regardless of your age or when the incident occurred.

    Courts can grant economic and non-economic damages to compensate you for your injuries. Compensation can cover past, present, and ongoing medical expenses, including psychological and psychiatric treatment, pain and suffering, and other damages resulting from your harm.

    Economic damages directly reimburse you for expenses incurred or those you expect to pay, including medical treatment costs and fees for counseling services… plus can provide permanent emotional damages when the victim is unable to work.

    Non-economic damages reimburse you for pain and suffering caused by your sexual abuse

    Punitive damages can be available if the defendant acted with intentional disregard for the safety of the victim. The intent of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for their wrongful conduct and discourage others from committing the same or similar acts.

    In the aftermath of a sexual assault, you might not be able to think clearly or focus on filing a sexual abuse claim on your own. That’s why you need a compassionate and objective law firm that specializes in sexual abuse litigation to step in and manage the details and legal complexities of your lawsuit.

    Don’t wait to seek justice and compensation. Contact Herman Law today for a free consultation. Our dedicated team focuses exclusively on representing those who suffered sexual abuse – from California to New York and every state in between. Contact us online at HermanLaw.com or call us at 1 866 244 0968.

    • • •

    MacLaren Hall was an institution for children in Los Angeles County that closed in disgrace in 2003 after allegations of abuse and neglect came to light. 

    More recently, former residents of MacLaren Hall have come forward and disclosed the childhood sexual abuse they endured from MacLaren Hall staff members.

    If you suffered sexual abuse while a resident of MacLaren Hall (now known as MacLaren Children’s Center), you may be able to seek justice against those responsible. 

    A major lawsuit is pending against the facility and Los Angeles County for childhood sexual abuse on behalf of over 500 victims.

    If you are a victim, Herman Law is here to support you, have your voice heard, and help you seek financial justice. We are accepting clients who were residents of MacLaren Hall and experienced sexual abuse at the hands of staff members. 

    We know that no amount of money can make up for the abuse inflicted on you as a child. However, any damages awarded from this lawsuit can make your life more comfortable and allow you to find treatment and support to heal from the abuse.

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    What is MacLaren Hall?

    Los Angeles County intended MacLaren Hall to be a haven for abused, orphaned, or unwanted children. Its founders opened its doors in the 1940s with the intent to house non-delinquent minors and keep them separated from other children guilty or accused of crimes. However, Mac Hall became a nightmare for many.

    Its purpose changed, and it began housing children from the LA County juvenile hall due to overcrowding. Eventually, it grew to house over 4,000 children a year at its peak capacity in the 1960s.

    Until 1976, MacLaren Hall was run and managed by the Los Angeles County Probation Department. Although touted as a safe place for neglected children, MacLaren Hall felt more like a prison to residents because it operated similarly. It had a 14-foot-high chain-link fence with five feet of barbed wire, floodlights, and spartan housing facilities. 

    In its 2003-04 annual report, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) states, “Many of the most troubled children, those most in need of therapy and individual attention, had been warehoused for years in a jail-like, Dickensian county facility called MacLaren, where they were so neglected that their care was characterized by ACLU attorneys on the case as ‘amounting to government-sponsored child abuse.’”

    Residents frequently ran away, and violence from staff members and other children was rampant.

    Reports from former residents describe a tragic gauntlet of abuse: overmedication to make them lethargic and docile, beatings, confinement in a small punishment room, restraints, and even sexual abuse and rape. Instead of a sanctuary of hope and care, MacLaren Hall was a dangerous and traumatizing place for vulnerable youth.

    What Caused MacLaren Hall to Close?

    infographic depicting reasons why mac hall was closed

    The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in 2002 against Los Angeles County for failing to provide adequate medical care for children residing at the facility. Los Angeles County, the state of California, and board members of MacLaren Hall were named defendants in the lawsuit.

    The allegations in the lawsuit include:

    • Overreliance on MacLaren Hall as a semi-permanent residence facility instead of temporary housing
    • Favoring budget-conscious decisions over those in the best interests of children
    • Improper care and treatment for known mental health conditions in the children
    • Lack of treatment or limited treatment for children with special needs
    • Lack of training for Mac Hall employees and social workers

    The ACLU made specific demands in its lawsuit, urging the county to better meet the needs of the 40,000 foster children under its care. Among these demands, it asked Los Angeles County to close the facility.

    Under the heavy weight of this lawsuit, Los Angeles County decided to close Mac Hall in 2003 and make other institutional changes.

    How Common Was Sexual Abuse at MacLaren Hall?

    It’s impossible to know the true extent of child abuse at Mac Hall, but there are numerous retellings of its horrors from the survivors to infer that the abuse was widespread and occurred over the course of several decades. The Los Angeles Daily News reports stories told by the survivors:


    A. Williams was sexually assaulted by other children while staff members watched. She comments, “I have remained silent till today because of fear for my life… I have been on the battlefield for my sanity for more than five decades. And I still have moments of crisis that resulted from the hell I faced as a child.”


    A. Flores endured sexual abuse by staff and a “rest and rest room,” where staff members observed children urinating and defacating through a small window. He comments, “At that young age and in your first experience, you don’t really understand what sex means, what’s appropriate. You have to go with it because you don’t want any more consequences and punishment.”


    O. Evans faced sexual abuse and once she reported it, she was put back in the same room where she was originally abused. She states, “I’ve been through my fair share of trials and tribulations. I just pray that our voices are heard today so that others have the strength to come forward.”

    MacLaren Hall Lawsuit Updates

    2022 Sexual Abuse Lawsuit: Former MacLaren Hall Residents

    In May 2022, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of 12 victims who allegedly suffered sexual abuse while at MacLaren Hall. In the lawsuit, former residents claimed that staff members and other residents physically and sexually abused them, citing lack of supervision as one of the contributing causes.

    In June 2022, an additional 31 victims came forward and joined the civil lawsuit that was filed in the previous month. The complaint alleges that MacLaren Hall was overcrowded, understaffed, and poorly maintained, and that children were overmedicated, restrained, sexually assaulted, and taunted.

    "Reports indicate that hundreds of MacLaren Hall residents may have been sexually abused by staff. The county of Los Angeles failed to protect these children and they are now suffering because of this abuse."

    2018 MacLaren Hall Lawsuit

    In 2018, a former MacLaren Hall resident from El Monte filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County alleging that two social workers from the county Department of Children and Family Services (DCF) had reasonable suspicion she had been sexually assaulted and did not inform the appropriate authorities. Her lawsuit ended favorably, with a $20.6 million award from Los Angeles County.

    Proving Liability in a MacLaren Hall Sexual Abuse Case

    For sexual abuse lawsuits, proving that the defendant or defendants are liable for your injuries lies in establishing negligence. For sexual abuse victims at MacLaren Hall, the most promising is negligent hiring and supervision. 

    As the employer, Los Angeles County knew or should have known that Mac Hall staff members were a risk to the residents at the facility. The county may be responsible for sexual abuse that occurred at the hands of Mac Hall employees if one or more of the following applies:

    • The county fails to run a background check and hires a person with a criminal record for assault.
    • The county ignores complaints by parents of a staff member’s inappropriate behavior, or it ignores other evidence of abuse. Overlooking signs or reports of abuse one time can be negligent.
    • The county writes a training program for its employees about child sexual abuse but fails to supervise its employees’ implementation of related protocols.

    Herman Law’s child sexual abuse lawyers can help you gather the necessary evidence for a successful claim. Contact our sexual abuse law firm today for a consultation.

    What Evidence Do I Need to Prove My Claim Against Mac Hall?

    Victims of sexual abuse at Mac Hall can prove negligent hiring or supervision of a child sexual predator if they establish the following:

    • The employee was unfit to carry out the job duties needed to fulfill their responsibilities at the center per their hiring contract or job description;
    • Los Angeles County knew or should have known that the employee was unsuitable, incompetent, or worse;
    • The employee sexual abused a resident; and
    • The sexual abuse resulted in physical or emotional damages to the resident.

    Our sexual abuse attorneys will demonstrate that your suffering would not have happened if the defendants had upheld their duty of care and taken reasonable steps to prevent abuse.

    The California Child Victims Act

    In 2019, California passed the California Child Victims Act. It took effect in January 2020. It provides a “lookback” window of three years, allowing childhood sexual abuse victims in California to file a lawsuit against their abuser and other responsible parties, regardless of how long ago the abuse happened. The window closed on December 31, 2022.

    The California Child Victims Act also expanded the legal definition of childhood sexual abuse to include instances of sexual assault, allowing more victims to take action.

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    MacLaren Hall Lawsuit FAQs

    Disclosing past sexual abuse and trauma can raise painful emotions, confusion, and uncertainty about what comes next. You may have questions, and we have answers.

    Can I sue Los Angeles County for the sexual abuse I experienced at MacLaren Hall?

    Yes. Los Angeles County was the party responsible for running and staffing MacLaren Hall. The court may consider the county partly to blame for the abuse and neglect of children housed in MacLaren Hall.

    What kind of compensation can I receive from my lawsuit?

    There is no exact number for determining the compensation you may be awarded. Each case is unique, and the dollar amount awarded depends on the facts, evidence, and jury. 


    Three types of damages can be awarded: economic, non-economic, and punitive. Courts grant economic and non-economic damages to compensate you for your injuries. The intent of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for their wrongful or egregious conduct and deter others from committing the same or similar acts.


    As your legal advocates, we will do our best to achieve the highest possible settlements or awards for our clients.

    Do I have to be part of a class-action lawsuit to file a claim against MacLaren Hall?

    No. You have the right to file your own lawsuit. We will help you understand the details of filing an individual lawsuit versus participating in a class action when we speak at your initial consultation.

    Can I still file a claim if the abuse occurred years ago?

    With the California Child Victims Act (the “lookback” window), you are eligible to file a claim through December 31, 2022. Since this deadline is quickly approaching, it is in your best interests to contact a personal injury lawyer accepting MacLaren Hall sexual abuse clients immediately. 


    In 2019, California adopted AB 218. It extends the statute of limitations for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator of the abuse and other responsible parties. 


    The time limit to file a lawsuit or join a class-action lawsuit is 22 years after the victim reaches the age of majority or five years from the date of discovering the abuse. Often, childhood sexual abuse victims repress the incident and only realize it later in life. 


    The statute of limitations, while seemingly straightforward, can be complicated. If you experienced sexual abuse, consult with a lawyer to examine the facts of your case and determine whether filing your sexual abuse claim is still an option.

    Choose the Herman Law Firm to help you file your MacLaren Hall Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

    As an established sex abuse law firm, Herman Law employs a legal team of skilled personal injury attorneys who focus on and excel in the particular challenges of child sexual abuse lawsuits. 

    Our expansive knowledge allows us to confidently evaluate your case and give you legal advice in your best interests, including what type of legal action you have the option to take.

    We also have a Special Investigative Unit, a team comprised of investigators and experts with extensive training in working with child sexual abuse victims. With over 125 years’ experience combined, this team’s sole responsibility is investigating and discovering evidence for our clients.

    Child sex abuse lawsuits are complex cases that consist of delicate situations and emotions. Our compassionate team will skillfully gather the facts and evidence of your abuse to build your case successfully.

    At Herman Law, we operate under a contingency fee. Our sexual assault lawyers only charge you a fee if we win, with the predetermined and agreed-on percentage coming directly from your judge or jury award. Regardless of the outcome, you will likely be responsible for court costs, including filing fees or expert witness fees.

    • • •

    Contact Herman Law If You Suffered Sexual Abuse at MacLaren Hall

    Were you a resident of MacLaren Hall and suffered abuse while under its care? You may have grounds to file a lawsuit or participate in a class-action suit against Los Angeles County, MacLaren Hall, and other responsible parties to recover compensation. 

    The dedicated team at Herman Law represents victims of sexual abuse. We can provide the compassionate representation you deserve and vigorously defend your rights under the law.  

    “For over 20 years I have exclusively represented victims of sexual abuse and recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for victims, but more importantly, I have helped my clients heal by telling their story.” – Jeff Herman

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