Penn State hires firm to seek settlements for abuse victims
A law firm hired by Penn State University to facilitate potential settlements with child sex abuse victims of Jerry Sandusky has begun meeting with lawyers for some of the parties.
The university so far is aware of roughly 10 to 15 cases, said Kenneth Feinberg, of the firm Feinberg Rozen LLP, headquartered in Washington D.C. His firm says it is interested in meeting with representatives of any victim open to such talks.
Mr. Feinberg and attorney Michael Rozen said the initial meetings were in Philadelphia, partly for the convenience of the parties, but that future meetings will be at various locations. They said the preliminary meetings were professional and the parties were receptive.
"Everyone has said there is a desire to get things resolved in an amicable fashion provided everyone acts in good faith, and I think so far it is unquestionable that everyone is moving forward in good faith," Mr. Rozen said.
Penn State has said it would like to complete the process by year's end.
The firm now helping Penn State resolve outstanding personal injury litigation in the Sandusky scandal has been involved in a number of high profile cases in recent years.
Feinberg Rozen helped resolve mass litigation stemming from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico; the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007 and the Massey coal mine explosion in West Virginia in 2010, Penn State said in announcing the hiring Thursday.
For months, Penn State has said it wants to resolve the cases as soon as possible. When Karen Peetz was elected Penn State trustees chair in January she said the school did not want to draw victims through prolonged litigation.
"In retaining Feinberg Rozen LLP, with their nationally recognized expertise, 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 last week. "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 legal process."
The firm is being briefed by Penn State lawyers "about the quantity and quality of the cases," Mr. Feinberg said. "They vary in terms of duration, in terms of seriousness of the injury, in terms of who the lawyers are, in terms of whether they have been filed in court or are accusations that have not yet crystallized into litigation.
"We've spent a fair amount of time now with Penn State and its lawyers to better understand the scope of the assignment," he added.
Mr. Sandusky, a retired Penn State assistant football coach, was convicted in June of 45 counts of child sex abuse spanning more than a decade. His November arrest and scope of the allegations embroiled the university in a scandal, led to the departure of top campus leaders and produced landmark sanctions this summer by the NCAA, including a $60 million fine and four-year postseason football bowl ban.
Mr. Feinberg said the firm is not administering a compensation and "has no binding authority to compel a settlement" but rather will facilitate only in cases where individuals and their lawyers are so inclined.
First Published September 25, 2012 12:00 am