A sexual assault survivor is receiving more than $1.5 million combined from New Life Church of Alamo and the San Ramon Valley Unified School District as part of the settlement of legal complaints stemming from abuse committed by a former church youth group leader and California High School head wrestling coach, according to a statement from the young man's attorneys on Thursday.
New Life Church has agreed to pay $849,000 and SRVUSD will pay $699,000 to the victim, who as a teen was abused by since-convicted sex offender Kevin Lopez in 2013 and 2014, according to the law firm of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard.
"Insurance companies continue to pay for the sexual abuse caused by the negligence of school districts, churches and other institutions that are failing to protect our children," said attorney Lauren Cerri, who represented the survivor in the lawsuit. “We hope to start seeing school districts and churches taking steps to develop and implement child sexual abuse prevention training rather than relying on insurance companies to pay for the tragic results."
Representatives from New Life Church had not responded to requests for comment as of Thursday afternoon.
SRVUSD spokeswoman Elizabeth Graswich on Thursday confirmed the case resolved with the district in the fall, but declined further comment. "SRVUSD resolved the legal matter through a settlement in October 2018. We are not going to comment on a legal case that does not involve SRVUSD," she said.
Lopez, who was 27 at the time of his arrest in September 2014, accepted a plea deal from Contra Costa County prosecutors in February 2015, admitting to eight felonies for acts involving three boys between 2003 and September 2014. He is currently serving a sentence of 10 years and eight months in a state prison.
According to the original lawsuit that was submitted by Cerri's firm in October 2015, their teen client first met Lopez in August 2013 when he was a 14 years old student at Cal High and a member of the New Life Church youth group.
The teen joined the wrestling team in December 2013 and was sexually abused from around that time until September 2014, the time of Lopez’s arrest.
Firm representatives alleged officials with the church and school district could have, and should have, done more to protect their client.
The lawsuit stated that not only did church officials ignore numerous complaints about Lopez’s behavior, but they allowed him to chaperone kids to camps and mission trips throughout California and Mexico, where at least one of the assaults took place.
“Lopez was seen cuddling in bed and ‘spooning’ with our client in Mexico and the Church did not report the incident. It took no action whatsoever to stop the easily preventable sexual abuse that occurred after that trip,” Cerri said.
Firm representatives said Thursday that the church has “re-evaluated and strengthened” its child protection policies in the wake of the Lopez case. They said the settlement with the church is $549,000 above the $300,000 sexual abuse insurance coverage that its insurance policy provided.
In the case of the SRVUSD, the survivor’s attorneys alleged that the district also violated mandatory reporting laws by failing to report suspected sexual abuse, further stating that unidentified district staff chose to conduct its own investigation after receiving two complaints about Lopez without contacting police.