MacLaren Hall Sex Abuse in Los Angeles
A Voice for Victims
What is MacLaren Hall?
Located in Los Angeles County, MacLaren Hall was supposed to be a haven for unwanted, abused, and abandoned children. Its founders opened its doors in the 1940s with an original intent to house non-delinquent minors and keep them separated from other children guilty or accused of crimes. Its purpose changed, and it began housing children from the county juvenile hall due to overcrowding. Eventually, it grew to house over 4,000 children a year at its peak capacity in the 1960s.
Although initially intended for minors without criminal backgrounds, Mac Hall is said to have felt like a prison. It had a 14-foot chain-link fence topped with five feet of barbed wire and floodlights everywhere. For decades up to the 1970s, the county probation department ran Mac Hall, so they operated it just like they operated the prisons.
Children frequently ran away, violence was common, and the facility was notoriously overcrowded. Many reports by former residents of over-medication, beatings, restraints, confinement to a small punishment room, rape, and other forms of sexual assault make Mac Hall a supposedly dangerous and traumatizing place to have been versus the sanctuary intended.
Why did MacLaren Hall close?
Dogged by child abuse and neglect complaints, Mac Hall finally shut down when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued Los Angeles County for failing to provide sufficient medical care for the children. In its lawsuit, ACLU accused Los Angeles County and the State of California of several broad failures, many of which directly involved Mac Hall, including:
- Overreliance on Mac Hall as a semi-permanent rather than temporary housing facility
- Favoring budget-conscious decisions over those in the best interests of children
- Merely cataloging the mental health needs of children rather than focusing on providing the requisite care
- Children in need of mental health treatment or with other special needs either received no appropriate treatment or only treatment one hour a week
- Lack of training for Mac Hall staff and other social workers
The lawsuit also alleged specific instances of neglect:
An 11-year-old girl suffered physical abuse at home. After being placed in government custody, she endured several psychiatric hospitalizations but never received the intensive mental health care she needed.
A 9-year-old boy suffered abuse by a friend of his mother. Records indicated that despite being diagnosed with major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), he failed to receive the intensive individual therapy needed.
Under the heavy weight of this lawsuit, Los Angeles County decided to close Mac Hall and make other institutional changes.
HOW COMMON WAS SEX ABUSE AT MACLAREN HALL?
MacLaren Hall Survivors
Fellow survivors created and dedicated the website MacLaren Hall Survivors to “healing, renewal, reconciliation, [and] justice.” It provides first-hand accounts from former Mac Hall residents, including:
Recent MacLaren Hall Sex Abuse Cases
The 2002 lawsuit by the ACLU was only the start of legal troubles for Los Angeles County. Recently, survivors are initiating their own cases to speak out about their injustices. For example, a 15-year-old girl from El Monte suffered sexual abuse from her mother and four men living in the house. Her lawsuit alleged that two social workers from the county Department of Children and Family Services (DCF) had reasonable suspicions that she had been sexually assaulted but did not inform the appropriate authorities. Her lawsuit ended favorably, with a $20.6 million award from Los Angeles County.
Can you hold Los Angeles County liable for sexual abuse at MacLaren Hall?
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. 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 who has 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.
How much compensation can I receive if I suffered sexual abuse at MacLaren Hall?
There’s no exact formula for determining the amount of compensation a jury might award a victim of child sexual abuse. Each case is different, and the dollar number awarded depends on the specific facts of your case, the evidence presented, and the jury itself.
Compensation can cover past, present, and ongoing medical expenses, including psychological and psychiatric treatment, pain and suffering, and other damages resulting from your harm.
How do I know if I have a valid case?
Victims of sexual abuse at Mac Hall can prove negligent hiring or supervision if they establish the following four elements:
Is it too late to file a claim?
Probably not. Under California law, if you were a child when the sexual abuse happened, you have until the age of 40 to sue Los Angeles County for the harm you suffered from the staff at Mac Hall. This time restriction is called a statute of limitations. There are two exceptions to this rule – one permanent and one temporary – that can prolong the time you have to initiate a lawsuit:
For all victims, especially children, you may not realize when sexual abuse happens until you later learn what it is and how it affected you. If this is your situation, you have five years to file a claim from the date you discover or reasonably should have discovered your abuse.
The law presently allows for a lookback window. Until December 31, 2022, you have a “window” of opportunity to file a claim for sexual abuse regardless of your age or when the incident occurred.
The statute of limitations, while seemingly straightforward, can be complicated. If you experienced sexual assault or abuse, consult with a lawyer to examine the facts of your case and determine whether filing your sexual abuse claim is still an option.
What evidence do I need to prove my claim?
When determining what evidence you need to prove your case, it’s important to remember the four elements you must meet to establish that Los Angeles County negligently hired or supervised a child sexual predator. A sexual abuse attorney can help you gather the necessary evidence for a successful claim. Contact a sexual abuse law firm today for a consultation.
Unfitness of Employee to Work at MacLaren Hall
To prove this element, you need to show that the employee who sexually abused you should not have worked at Mac Hall due to their disciplinary or criminal history. For example, if the employee was a convicted child molester, you could introduce a copy of their criminal record into evidence.
The Unfit Employee Sexually Abused You at MacLaren Hall
It’s not enough that you suffered sexual abuse – you must prove that the employee of Los Angeles County working at Mac Hall committed the act. For instance, assume you wake up in the hospital with no memory of the past 72 hours. A medical exam establishes that you were the victim of sexual assault. If you can’t remember who did it, another method of showing a Los Angeles employee was responsible is needed. Perhaps the molester admitted they did it to someone else. Without any evidence of who sexually abused you, though, it’s difficult to prevail on your claim.
Los Angeles County Knew or Should Have Known of the Employee's Unfitness
It can be challenging to prove that Los Angeles County knew about the unsuitability of an employee upon their hiring or that the person did not have adequate supervision. Alternatively, you can prove that the county should have known about the risks or disparities. Evidence that the county failed to take reasonable steps in the hiring or supervision of the unfit employee should be sufficient to prove this element.
For example, any agency dealing with child supervision and care probably has a screening program for its employees. If such a program existed, but Los Angeles County failed to follow the appropriate procedures to carry out its requirements, its conduct could be considered unreasonable. You can show evidence of the screening program and find someone willing to testify that the county failed to satisfy proper screening protocols.
The Sexual Abuse Caused You Damages
While the first three elements are critical to proving that the defendant is liable for sexually assaulting you, the final element is paramount to show why a court should award you civil damages. You must demonstrate that you suffered injuries necessitating compensation to help recover your losses.
Generally, there are three types of damages awarded, including economic, non-economic, and punitive. Courts grant economic and non-economic damages to compensate you for your injuries. The intent of punitive damages, though, is to punish the defendant for their wrongful or egregious conduct and deter others from committing the same or similar acts.
Should I contact a sexual abuse law firm?
Yes, for several reasons. An established sex abuse law firm has dedicated personal injury attorneys that can help you in the following ways:
Contact Herman Law today. Our dedicated team at Herman Law focuses exclusively on representing those who suffered sexual abuse – from California to New York and every state in between. Don’t wait any longer to seek justice and compensation for your harm. Our law firm is available now for a free consultation.