September 21, 2012
According to this piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Kenneth Feinberg has been hired to mediate the civil claims against Penn State University as part of the Sandusky sexual predator scandal. According to the article:
“We are seeking to make sure we do the right thing in terms of providing a just outcome for the victims,” Penn State president Rodney Erickson said in a statement. “We hope to enable a process that will result in settlement of many of the civil cases so that the victims will not have to be drawn through the legal process.”
When the scandal was in full bloom, there was some talk about whether mediation would be appropriate for the civil cases, and my take has always been yes (shocker). The only reason I could think of for arguing that mediation is inappropriate is that Sandusky’s conduct needs to be aired in public to use as an example of how not to handle child abuse issues in the workplace. The university had a chance to stop a serial child rapist and failed to do so, and the public is well aware of this because of the criminal investigation, the Freeh Report and other things. The information is public enough.
David Hoffman at Concurring Opinions argues that one could read Feinberg’s retention in a couple of ways. One of them being:
Associating with Feinberg transmutes the human errors which enabled Sandusky’s crimes into a “disaster”, implying less particularized responsibility. Plaintiffs refusing to partake in the common pool can potentially be framed as selfish, grasping, etc.
I disagree with this uber-cynical view. Oftentimes child sexual abuse claims are very difficult to prove, and even when there’s enough information to support the notion that the sexual abuse occurred the facts can still be murky enough that there’s some doubt in the public as to what really happened. Negative reaction is typically associated with this “not quite sure what happened” narrative, and that’s not the case with Sandusky’s victims. They will be seen as most deserving if a settlement isn’t reached through the Feinberg talks. That said, I expect the plaintiffs to settle their claims so they can put this episode of their lives behind them.
Hat Tip – Concurring Opinions
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