Jan 24, 2022
An area woman has alleged through a civil lawsuit that a Mater Dei High School track and football coach sexually assaulted her on numerous occasions in the 1980s. According to the complaint filed in Orange County Superior Court last week, the woman was a student assistant for the football team at the prestigious Catholic school when then-coach Patrick Callahan assaulted her “countless times.”
The complaint alleges that the plaintiff first met Callahan at a track camp on the Mater Dei campus in 1984, and that he groomed her for sexual abuse. The first incident reportedly occurred in 1985 when the former student was 16-years-old. The lawsuit further alleges some of the most serious abuse occurred in the summer of 1987, prior to the woman’s senior year.
The Los Angeles Times reported that during the school’s “Hell Week,” which included intense football team workouts during the summer leading up the start of the season, the team and student assistants would spend the night in the gymnasium. According to the complaint, this rigorous schedule was done in order to accommodate the two-a-day practices.
The complaint further alleges that when students were supposed to be asleep, Callahan took the teenager to the football field and raped her.
The woman filed the lawsuit anonymously, alleging repeated sexual assaults by the former coach.
According to the filing, the female student was “forced to accompany Callahan to various athletic events of or sponsored by (Mater Dei). These athletic events were both on and off the high school campus of (Mater Dei) during the day and night, and included dinners at restaurants and other venues in California where alcohol was served to Plaintiff by (Callahan) and where other coaches and agents of (Mater Dei) were present. Often during these dinners, the PERPETRATOR sexually assaulted Plaintiff while they were sitting at the table with the other coaches and agents of (Mater Dei) present.”
Callahan worked as a football and track coach and was a physical education teacher at Mater Dei High School in the late 1980s, according to the Los Angeles Times report. He has denied the allegations, according to an ABC 7 report. Additionally, the Los Angeles Times reported that the lawsuit appears to be the first public accusation of sexual abuse against Callahan.
In addition to Callahan, Mater Dei High School and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange are named in the sexual abuse lawsuit. As the Mercury News reported, defendants cannot be publicly identified in childhood sexual abuse complaints filed under AB 218 until a judge formally accepts the case. Initial filings may, however, list the addresses of defendants (and those of Mater Dei and the diocese were listed in the anonymous woman’s filing).
ABC 7 also noted that Mater Dei has been under scrutiny of late following a separate lawsuit over an alleged hazing incident which occurred in February 2021. According to ABC 7, a football player agreed to the hazing ritual which involved two players punching one another in the torso. But the student allegedly took “blows to the head,” according to ABC 7, suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a result.
Mater Dei’s president has indicated the school’s athletic program will undergo an independent investigation, according to ABC 7.
California Assembly Bill 218M (AB 218) took effect in January of 2020. The bill provides a three-year revival window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file civil claims for damages – no matter how long ago the alleged crimes occurred. Through December of this year, the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse civil lawsuits is paused in California, allowing all survivors an opportunity at justice.
The aforementioned lawsuit against the former Mater Dei football and track coach is an example of a claim filed under AB 218. Had AB 218 not been passed and signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2019, the woman’s claim would have been barred by the statute of limitations. Accordingly, AB 218 offers any survivor of childhood sexual abuse a similar opportunity at justice through a civil lawsuit.
AB 218’s three-year lookback window is an unprecedented opportunity for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to pursue and obtain justice against a perpetrator – whether an individual or institution. Through December 31, 2022, survivors may file claims seeking financial compensation for various damages.
Some common damages that may be recovered through an AB 218 sexual abuse lawsuit include:
In addition to the bill’s three-year lookback window (known as a revival window in other states), AB 218 includes a treble damages clause that gives the courts latitude to award triple settlements or verdicts to plaintiffs in cases where a cover-up is proven.
For example, if the above mentioned Mater Dei case were proven to involve a cover-up on the part of school or diocese officials, the courts could theoretically triple the amount of a final settlement or verdict awarded to the plaintiff (i.e. a $1 million award could be increased to $3 million).
The AB 218 treble damages clause was included in the legislation to severely punish bad actors who engaged in cover-ups and allowed systemic sexual abuse to occur – often over the course of several decades.
If you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Dordulian Law Group (DLG) strongly encourages you to act quickly to ensure your claim is not barred by the statute of limitations. Survivors who do not file claims by the December 31, 2022 deadline will likely be excluded from seeking any future legal recourse, as the statute of limitations resumes in 2023.
DLG’s founder and former sex crimes prosecutor, Sam Dordulian, has used the metaphor of a “time machine” to describe AB 218’s three-year lookback window, allowing sexual abuse lawyers to go as far back as necessary – even for decades-old crimes – to secure justice for survivors.
Survivors who may wish to remain anonymous or secure a confidential settlement award have options. DLG recently obtained a $675,000 settlement for a survivor of childhood sexual abuse under AB 218. Our client wished to not only remain anonymous, but to also secure the quickest possible financial damages award. Accordingly, the entire process – from start to finish – took less than two months.
To speak with an attorney about your AB 218 claim, contact DLG today at 818-322-4056. Our consultations are always free, confidential, and without any obligation. And DLG’s No Win/No Fee Guarantee means you never have to worry about upfront costs or out of pocket expenses. DLG’s experienced team of sexual abuse lawyers never charge a fee until a maximum financial damages award has been recovered for your claim.
DLG’s SAJE Team features four-tiers of dedicated professionals who are available to survivors 24/7 for support and to answer any questions.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.