If you read/watch the news, you’ve probably heard about the shameful episode involving the Chicago Blackhawks. In sum, back in 2010, a player on the Stanley Cup winning team reported that the video coach, Brad Aldrich, had sexually abused and harassed him.  That coach wasn’t immediately fired.  A police report wasn’t made. And Aldrich was allowed a day with the Stanley Cup after the victory.

The player was only 20 at the time and wasn’t a fully rostered member of the team. The coach was 27 and allegedly invited the player to his apartment for drinks ad said he had the ability to get him on the full time roster.  They dispute whether or not the sexual encounter they had was consensual. The coach allegedly threatened the player that if he didn’t act like he liked the encounter he would make it so he never played in the NHL again.

A lawsuit was filed in May of this year which led to an investigation and a report by a law firm hired by the team. The lawsuit was filed under the Illinois Gender Violence Act which as of 2019 allows you to sue your employer for acts committed by employees.  It allows anyone who is the victim of gender related violence, including molestation or sexual abuse, to bring a lawsuit for monetary damages.

Unlike regular personal injury cases that have a two year time limit, the Illinois Gender Violence Act has a seven year time limit for filing a lawsuit.  In this case, the suit wasn’t filed until 11 years after the sexual encounter occurred.

So from a lawyer’s standpoint, the question is, how is this case going to proceed further. I have been told by another lawyer that there are motions to dismiss the lawsuit already on file and I would expect that those will be granted. I’ve also been told that the plaintiff in this case is saying that they had a repressed memory of what happened which is why they didn’t file the lawsuit in time. That’s a novel theory that has only in the past been used by people who were sexually abused as minors. The time limit for suing in those cases starts when the memory becomes clear again and you are an adult.

In this case, the law firm report and other statements make clear to me that the memory wasn’t repressed right after it happened as the victim told friends and has made statements about how this experience ruined his marriage. I think ultimately the lawsuit will be dismissed.

Does that mean the victim will end up with nothing? While I don’t think he will get a windfall through the courts, it would not shock me at all if he gets a significant payment from the Blackhawks as an act of good will due to their cover up of this situation.  I’ve seen that before in other cases where a company wants to make good on a bad situation and also make that situation go away.

It’s not a strategy I would suggest to most people.  You definitely want to file a lawsuit before the time limits are up. The Catholic Church for example did appear to pay out some cases that missed the time limits for filing but as more cases have come forward they’ve been vigorous in their defenses.

If you have any questions about the Illinois Gender Violence Act or sexual abuse lawsuits, you can call us for free and in confidence at 312-346-5320.