Posted on Monday, November 23rd, 2020 at 5:52 pm
Decades after the fact, two men are taking a stand against their former employer for failing to protect them against alleged abuse by their supervisor. Ballard Tackett, 47, and Kelby Ash, 49, worked as paperboys for the Rochester-based Democrat & Chronicle (D&C) and alleged repeated molestation between 1982 and 1985 by Jack I. Lazeroff, who oversaw their paper routes. Tackett’s and Ash’s ages ranged from 11 to 13 years during this period of time. They filed their lawsuit on September 25, 2020.
Other former D&C paperboys accused Lazeroff of sexual abuse in two separate claims filed in October 2019 and February 2020 against the newspaper and its parent company Gannet Co., Inc. All of the complaints assert that Lazeroff was hired by the Democrat & Chronicle, even though he had been fired from his previous position at a Rochester bank for conduct involving abuse of boys who spent time at the bank applying for student loans.
According to Tacket and Ash’s complaint, Lazeroff’s misbehavior was common knowledge among D&C staff, yet the newspaper failed to protect the boys from being abused. The filing states, “The D&C negligently hired Lazeroff then failed to properly supervise him … permitted Lazeroff unfettered and unsupervised access to … young children, failed to address sexual abuse that was occurring in plain sight, and exposed Plaintiffs to danger.”
Evidently, even Lazeroff’s behavior in public was questionable and apparent, and it led to his arrest in 1987 for a disorderly conduct charge. A donut shop employee witnessed Lazeroff in the shop “almost daily with a young paperboy” and engaging in inappropriate touching. Three D&C paperboys were identified in the police report as who Lazeroff had taken to the donut shop, but how the case was resolved is unclear. In 1988, Lazeroff was arrested again and “charged with sexual abuse in the second degree.” Reportedly, he managed to plead guilty to a lesser charge and escaped serving any jail time.
Lazeroff was finally fired from the D&C for “messing with a paperboy,” according to several former employees who made statements for the complaints against him. The D&C covered the story about the first lawsuits concerning Lazeroff but stated that the complaints did not contain any direct evidence that could substantiate the reason why Lazeroff was terminated.
According to another D&C story, the company could not determine whether any of Lazeroff’s supervisors were aware of or took action on the allegations of his misconduct. They also could not locate records that detail the exact dates that Lazeroff worked for the D&C. Lazeroff died in 2003.
Victims Rights Law Opens Door to Civil Suits
Thanks to the Child Victims Act, people like Mr. Tackett and Mr. Ash have an opportunity to take legal action long after a crime happens. This New York law went into effect in August of 2019 and permits childhood abuse victims to pursue civil claims even after the state’s usual statute of limitations has expired. Sexual abuse survivors have until they are 55 years old to file civil suits against their offenders and the institutions that may have turned a blind eye to the behavior.
The legislation initially allowed a one-year window of time ending August 14, 2020, for civil cases that allege child sexual abuse to be filed no matter how long ago it took place. That window has since been extended until August 2021.
Because of the severe trauma associated with childhood sexual abuse, it often takes adult survivors many years to gain the fortitude necessary to openly confront their abusers. Statutes of limitations that don’t allow for this time have denied victims the choice of bringing a civil lawsuit, and this is why proponents fought for the Child Victims Act.
Along with the opportunity for civil cases, the Child Victims Act also extended the time period for criminal charges of middle and lower-level child sex abuse felonies. Previously, these charges could only be brought until the victim reached the age of 23, but now the age is 28.
Civil suits can be an advantageous option for abuse survivors. The government maintains most of the power in criminal cases, and the defendant is accountable to the state instead of the victim, with the focus being on punishment. The defendant is presumed innocent, and the burden to prove otherwise is substantial.
With civil lawsuits, the survivor initiates the case, and the defendant is meant to be held accountable to the survivor. There is no presumption of innocence, and there is a lesser burden of proof. Since civil cases concentrate on compensating the survivor for the harm suffered, the survivor can receive money for damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, therapy expenses, and psychological anguish.
Hach & Rose, LLP Stands With Child Sexual Abuse Survivors
No child should ever experience the horror of sexual abuse, but it happens far more than many people realize. Predators take advantage of children in all kinds of situations, and children can be at risk anywhere, not just in the scenarios that have been well-publicized. Sexual abuse robs children of their childhoods and leaves them with haunting memories and feelings that they can’t understand, and adult survivors still feel the pain and effects of their abuse.
Survivors who seek justice by way of a civil case against an abuser or other negligent parties can gain restitution and have the means to battle back against something that had left them feeling defenseless. If you or a loved one have been affected by childhood sexual abuse, even if it took place in the past, you may still be able to pursue legal action under New York’s Child Victims Act.
Hach & Rose, LLP has a team of qualified and experienced lawyers who fight for childhood sexual abuse survivors so that they can receive the justice and compensation they deserve. To schedule a free, confidential consultation with one of our compassionate childhood sexual abuse attorneys, please call 646-685-8045 or fill out our online contact form.