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Duty to Protect From Third-Party Harm in Sexual Abuse Cases

Recording of a 90-minute CLE video webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE course will explore the standards applied by courts to determine who may face civil liability for physical or sexual abuse perpetrated by third parties. The panel will discuss the duty of care to protect victims from third-party harm, how these standards are argued and applied in various jurisdictions, and the role of policy considerations in assessing the existence of the duty and ultimate liability.


Historically, only the perpetrator of a sexual crime could be held liable to the victim. Changing awareness and cultural norms has changed that. First, there was the introduction of sexual harassment claims in the workplace context. And now there are sexual abuse claims against several categories of defendants. Plaintiffs claim that defendants employed, supervised, regulated, or otherwise had a relationship with the perpetrator that gave rise to a duty to protect the plaintiff from the abuse. This panel has presented on the genesis of these claims and will now move forward to discuss the continued evolution of them.

Under the common law, the duty to protect from third-party harm was a narrow one. However, increasing litigation and media attention on sexual abuse has presented courts with the opportunity to consider various public policy arguments made by plaintiffs seeking to expand the scope of liability. Additionally, new theories of liability continue to emerge around the country as to these claims.

Listen as this experienced panel reviews the duty of care to third parties as stated in the Restatement (Third) of Torts and as set forth by the highest courts in various jurisdictions, as well as limitations and expansions of the traditional understanding of this duty.



  1. What is the traditional scope of the duty to prevent harm from third parties?
  2. What are some exceptions to the conventional view of "no duty"?
    1. Duty to disclose known abuse
    2. Duty to protect
      1. Sex trafficking
      2. Students
    3. Repurposing traditional negligence theories
      1. Landlord-tenant
      2. Employer-employee (if, for example, the perpetrator is a paid athlete)
    4. Contract claims
    5. Parent claims
    6. Derivative actions
  3. How have courts considered public policy factors?
  4. What are some potential insurance implications?


The panel will review these and other related issues:

  • What are some new theories of liability?
  • What special issues arise when the events alleged are decades-old?


Moldovan, Jessica
Jessica A. Moldovan

Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein

Ms. Moldovan is an associate in the New York office of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein where she is a member of...  |  Read More

Simpson, Heather
Heather E. Simpson

Kennedys Law

Ms. Simpson handles disputes throughout the United States. Her practice focuses on insurance coverage and commercial...  |  Read More

Whitlock, Kathryn
Kathryn S. (Kate) Whitlock

McAngus Goudelock & Courie

Ms. Whitlock has spent her entire career defending and counseling individuals and insurance companies in professional...  |  Read More

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