The Evolution of Sex Abuse Litigation featuring Jeff Herman

Law Firm Innovator: Jeff Herman of Herman Law

Full Interview Transcript

Chris Princis: (00:05)
Welcome to today’s CAMG’s podcast and today we are joined by Jeff Herman, a founding member and managing partner of Herman Law, the leading national firm on sex abuse cases and specifically child sex abuse cases. I’ve really had the honor of knowing Jeff over the last number of years where this litigation has really finally taken off, where it’s letting states open up the SOL windows so that victims can get the help that they need from many, many years ago. So, I want to welcome Jeff to our podcast today and appreciate you spending a few minutes with us there, Jeff.

Chris Princis: (00:43)
I think it’s interesting, your story. If you wouldn’t mind giving us a little bit of background, how you got started in this litigation, we’d appreciate it.

Jeff Herman: (00:50)
Sure. Thanks for the introduction, Chris. I got involved in representing victims of sexual abuse starting back in the late 1990s. I was a commercial litigator and one day someone had referred me a case for a woman who had a special needs son, a four-year-old autistic boy, who had come home from school and said that this teacher had touched his privates. And the mother had no idea what to do, and there weren’t really lawyers specialized in that.

Jeff Herman: (01:24)
And someone referred her to me and it was a really horrific story, a nightmare, as you can imagine for every parent, sending their children to school, adding on that a special needs child, and they had trusted that this school was following safety rules, which they weren’t. I said, “Let look at this and just let me see what I can figure out.”

Jeff Herman: (01:46)
And what I found out was that the school had hired a convicted pedophile. And so obviously, that kind of stuff should not happen, but it does all too frequently. So I took the case on and it really changed my career, changed my path, changed my life in many ways. And I ended up representing over 20 families, all who had young children in that school that were molested. And so I handled those cases and then from there it just grew. And I continued to grow my practice, representing kids who were sexually abused on a national level.

Jeff Herman: (02:24)
And interestingly, I was always very busy handling these cases. However, in recent years, certain states like New York, New Jersey, California, and some others have changed their statute of limitations and they changed them in a couple ways. One is they’ve extended the statute limitations going forward.

Jeff Herman: (02:50)
But the other thing they did that’s really significant, these states, is that they created a window so that any person from their state who was sexually molested as a child would have this window of time to file a civil lawsuit and the statute of limitations would not apply to those claims. And so all of a sudden, now my practice went from representing, usually they were the children, into representing adults who were molested as kids. And so it’s grown a lot now with all these cases. And it’s really incredible to see after all these years, that these truly deserving victims are finally getting an opportunity to begin to heal in new ways.

Chris Princis: (03:33)
Yeah, Jeff, no, I appreciate that feedback. And I know, you’re unique in a way where these are the only cases that you do. So, you’re 100% focused on this important, horrific litigation. Speaking of the statutes, if you wouldn’t mind giving us a little bit more detail, just so potential victims and firms that may want to get involved with this litigation, which ones are currently open and maybe some feedback on those and maybe what are you seeing going into 2022?

Jeff Herman: (04:00)
Yeah. So, today, as we record this, is November 15th, 2021. And so the window in New York had just recently closed and that closed in this past August. The window in New Jersey actually closes at the end of this month. There is still another window in California that is open and will remain open next year. And so, it’s tight right now if victims in New Jersey are looking for help. But certainly in California, there’s that opportunity.

Jeff Herman: (04:32)
And we anticipate that there will be other states who will pass their own legislation, or in the case of Pennsylvania, may even amend their constitution to allow this retroactive change in the statute of limitations. And so I think we’ll continue to see this trend. It’s the right thing to do for many reasons. And it’s going to continue.

Chris Princis: (04:58)
In this litigation, obviously there’s a lot of moving parts. There’s a lot of confusion and I know a lot of firms that are working with you, happily working with you. What would you recommend a law firm to do if they wanted to acquire these cases and start helping these victims?

Jeff Herman: (05:16)
For me, traditionally, all my cases just came organically. There weren’t a lot of lawyers really who focused in this area. I did on a national basis and so always cases just came to me. But when these windows opened, we began to see more creative marketing. And so one of the things I did is, with CAMG, I ended up doing some TV spots. Just to get the word out, to show that this is what I do and I think I have a unique approach on these cases, which is that I focus and my firm focuses on helping victims heal.

Jeff Herman: (05:56)
And we do that by giving them a voice. And these cases are horrific, but as the lawyers, all we can do is hear these victims, validate for them, believe them, and help them get a measure of justice. There’s no magic wand. But to answer your question, cases for me were coming in organically, through TV advertising and through digital marketing.

Chris Princis: (06:23)
Yeah. So, you would recommend that sort of approach for any law firm. And to your point, this is so [inaudible 00:06:32] this is much different than any local single event, than any mass tort, and most folks would agree with that. What would you recommend a firm that maybe wants to help, wants to do some marketing for this, are those cases something that could easily be referred to say a firm like yours?

Jeff Herman: (06:51)
Yeah, absolutely. I have a lot of cases that were referred to me because these are a little different, these cases. Of course the subject matter is tough, but there are lessons to be learned to handle these cases in terms of handling the clients. We have to remember, these are adult victims and many victims suffer from PTSD or PTSD-like symptoms. And so there are triggers in their lives.

Jeff Herman: (07:19)
One of the triggers is telling a lawyer about what happened to them. And we have to be mindful of that, to understand that they’re actually having a trigger and they might be reliving some of these feelings they had when they were being abused, as they’re telling that story. And so it’s really about listening and gaining their trust and always empowering the victims. And so there are other lawyers who do this and do it well. But they have to be sensitive to this and know their way around not just the courtroom, but these cases and to anticipate what you’re going to be dealing with.

Chris Princis: (07:54)
Yeah. I think that’s interesting. We’ve had that experience working with you and other firms where sometimes it’s a grandma or grandpa, and this is the first time that they’re discussing it even before a wife or husband or family members may even know. So, that’s a good point. How sensitive these are.

Jeff Herman: (08:10)
Yeah. We often talk about this in my office with my intake lawyers, is that that phone call that we’re receiving may be the first time they’re telling anybody about the abuse. But it’s probably not the first time they thought about making the call. The clients may have actually picked up the phone several times, and just didn’t have the strength to make that call because they’re going to be feeling the trauma. And so when they finally do make the call and we’re talking to them, we need to go at their pace.

Chris Princis: (08:44)
Yeah, yeah. I think that’s an important point. You’ve hit on that a little bit. Were there any other feedback or comments or advice you’d give it to law firms on how to handle these cases differently than, say, any mass tort or any local single event, right? Because this is kind of its own area.

Jeff Herman: (09:06)
Yeah. I think that the most important message here is that if you focus on helping victims heal, everything else will fall in place. And so if you think about a case and what happens in the day to day handling of litigation, you can anticipate these pitfalls.

Jeff Herman: (09:24)
For example, we’re always gaining the trust of our clients because many of these victims don’t trust people. Don’t trust authority figures, don’t trust lawyers. And so we earn that trust. But we can easily break that bond if they call the law firm and they ask for an update in their case and it’s a rule of my firm that any client who makes inquiry gets respond to that day and we’re not just saying it, we do it.

Jeff Herman: (09:54)
And even if the answer is, “Hi, we can’t get back to you with an answer today, but we’ll get back in touch with you>” because if we don’t do that, all of a sudden they, they don’t trust us now. And then it makes it very difficult to help them in their case because as every lawyer knows, if you don’t have a good communication and relationship with your client, it just makes everything so much more difficult.

Chris Princis: (10:18)
Yeah, yeah, no doubt. Yeah, yeah, Jeff. I certainly appreciate you spending a few minutes here with us and after working with you and getting to know you over the years, if you’re hearing this and you are a potential victim or there’s someone that may need some help, please reach out to Jeff, because I’ve been involved. They’re very good at handling these very sensitive calls.

Chris Princis: (10:42)
And if you’re a law firm that’s looking to help these victims and to get into this litigation, there’s so many moving parts and there’s so many sensitivities. Jeff really has, as he mentioned, well over 25 years of experience on handling these. So, I recommend you reaching out to Jeff and his team and we’ll have all his contact information to reach out to them, to get the help, or if you’re looking to help these victims, to reach out to Jeff and his team.

Chris Princis: (11:11)
So Jeff, as always, I appreciate your time and appreciate you sharing some of your knowledge here on this important and very sensitive litigation.

Jeff Herman: (11:20)
My pleasure, Chris. Take care.

Chris Princis: (11:22)
Thank you.

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