| BELLEFONTE, Pa., June 23
BELLEFONTE, Pa., June 23 With former Penn State
coach Jerry Sandusky now behind bars for child sexual abuse, the
university has given an unusual signal that it wants to wrap up
civil suits as fast as possible, legal observers said on
Shortly after Sandusky, 68, was convicted late on Friday on
45 counts of sexual abuse, Pennsylvania State University invited
victims to try to resolve claims against the school.
"The purpose of the program is simple - the university wants
to provide a forum where the university can privately,
expeditiously and fairly address the victims' concerns and
compensate them for claims relating to the university," it said
in a statement.
Sandusky's conviction clears a hurdle for potentially
big-ticket civil suits since abuse victims suing the school now
can point to a crime that was committed, the observers said.
At least two civil suits have been filed already against the
school, both in Philadelphia. A filing by Sandusky's lawyers
last month put the number of potential victims at almost 20.
"The biggest problem for Penn State is that they want to get
these cases closed. They want them behind them and they are
going to want to spend some money to make that happen," said
Daniel Filler, a law professor at Drexel University.
Max Kennerly, a Philadelphia lawyer who has handled sex
abuse cases, said the university's statement was unusual.
The move is a sign Penn State is willing to stay away from
the "usual pattern of deny, delay, defend -- the 'three Ds' of
corporate insurance defense," he said.
Penn State's potential damage from civil suits could become
clearer with a criminal case against the school's former
athletic director, Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz, the former vice
president for finance and business.
A former assistant coach, Mike McQueary, testified he told
late head coach Joe Paterno, Curley and Schultz about a 2001
incident in which Sandusky abused a boy in a Penn State locker
Curley and Schultz face charges of perjury and failure to
report suspected abuse in an alleged coverup of the incident.
"Schultz and Curley will tell us a lot more about what Penn
State knew" about Sandusky's pedophilia, Kennerly said.
Penn State had $4.6 billion in operating revenue reported
for the last fiscal year and an endowment topping $1.8 billion.
The university is involved in a legal battle with its main
liability insurer, Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association
Insurance Co, over who should have to pay for any civil suits in
the Sandusky scandal. It also owns its own insurer, Nittany
Insurance Co of Vermont.
"The real money is in the big institution, Penn State, and
insurance companies. The individuals (in the criminal suits) are
just conduits to the insurance companies," said Filler.
Pedophilia suits against Roman Catholic priests have
generated damages ranging from $50,000 to several million
dollars per victim and are a potential guideline for payouts in
the Penn State case, Kennerly said.
"It could be $1 million for each of them," he said.
Because of the Sandusky scandal, Penn State is facing
investigations by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Education, the
National Collegiate Athletic Association, a grand jury and the
U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
(Editing by Doina Chiacu)