Frequently Asked Questions

How are you different from other attorneys?

First and foremost, our law firm is very experienced and at the same time compassionate in handling these types of cases stemming from childhood sexual abuse. We have been on the forefront of this issue long before it had become popularized by out of state lawyers who have come to California recently to take advantage of the newly enacted Assembly Bill 218 which extends the statute of limitations for survivors to file their own lawsuit. Our Law Firm, Fiumara & Milligan Law, PC has teamed up with Noreen Evans, one of the North Bay’s former state senators. Noreen has a long and successful track record of drafting legislation that has addressed childhood sexual abuse issues violence against women and other related health and safety issues pertaining to public safety and the wellbeing of families. Her 40 years of civil litigation experienced coupled together with Founding Partner, Michael A. Fiumara equals almost 70 of legal experience between them. Michael A. Fiumara has spent almost three decades representing victims and the survivors of childhood sexual assault and abuse. Mr. Fiumara’s solid track record landmark 2007 case against the Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Rosa for nine Latino children and young adult plaintiffs yielded a settlement of over $5,000,000.00. The significance of this settlement is that it is prior to the liberalization of the newly enacted law extending the statute of limitations. WE now expect to do even better for our clients with these new tools. Unlike teams of lawyers across the United States who are signing up clients with little or no experience, Noreen Evans and Michael A. Fiumara both have a proven track record and experience in this area of law and are LOCAL attorneys and are licensed to practice law in California. Being local gives our childhood sexual abuse lawyers a deeper understanding of our community’s values. Noreen Evans, who is also a certified appellate specialist, has collaborated with Mr. Fiumara on many school related abuse cases which have many of the same similarities as the sexual abuse cases recently settled with Penn State and Michigan State sexual abuse survivors. Fiumara & Milligan Law, PC has been around since 1992 working on behalf of children’s issues. We understand that the opportunity for survivors to tell their story is a cathartic and is a healing experience. But we also know that no amount of money can undo the tragic long-lasting effect that childhood sexual abuse has had our survivors. Therefore, we take great pains to help our clients anyway we can begin to heal in a compassionate and non-judgmental way while protecting their privacy. WE never rest upon our laurels.

Can I keep my case from going public?

The answer to this question is yes. The newly enacted California Childhood Abuse law allows for the lawyer who is handling your case from disclosing your name under certain circumstances to protect your privacy and safety. Fiumara & Milligan Law is currently handling a childhood sexual abuse survivor who is now in his 60s. Our law firm respects our client’s and his family’s privacy, so we have developed an effective strategy to withhold his identity while pursuing monetary compensation from the offending Institution. In another case our law firm is working closely with the Archdiocese’s attorneys, to draft a confidential settlement to avoid public disclosure of our client’s name which may further traumatize and damage our client’s reputation and well-being. We would be happy to explain what we can do for you with regards to keeping your case confidential and private and shield from public scrutiny. You are welcome to come in for a free and confidential consultation. There is no obligation to hire us.

How long will my case take?

This is a difficult question because each case stands on its own merits. Each case is different. For example, a case filed against the Boy Scouts of America could take many more months or years because they have filed bankruptcy in federal court. Federal court bankruptcy can slow the process down by months or even years. Noreen Evans are very family with the bankruptcy process and can explain it to you especially if you are a Boy Scout of America childhood sexual abuse survivor. For example, if the public or private institution that was responsible for the childhood sexual abuse like the Boys Scouts filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the process will eventually provide equitable compensation to all survivors, but it will take longer. How much longer depends upon the bankruptcy judge and the number of sexual abuse victims that come forward and the determination of how many assets there are to cover all the compensation claims. The Boy Scouts resorted to Chapter 11 to survive the barrage of childhood sexual abuse lawsuits which have been made possible by the recent changes in state laws like California which allow survivors to sue over long-ago childhood sexual abuse. Because the Boys Scouts estimate that between 1,000 and 5,000 victims will seek compensation the process may take longer to resolve especially with the bankruptcy. However, in Catholic church related childhood sexual abuse cases some dioceses have already set up victim funds to compensate the survivors who are stepping forward because of the new State Law in California. Those dioceses would be easier to work with and come up with a confidential and fair settlement, thus, the timeframe would be greatly shortened to resolve your case. We cannot predict with a great deal of accuracy long your case will take until you meet with one of our highly skilled and experienced California childhood sexual abuse attorneys. We look forward to meeting you. Our experienced litigators and our compassionate staff will help sort out the facts and give you a more accurate answer on how long YOUR case can take.

I was raped in a school, is the school responsible?

The answer to this question is a resounding yes if you were raped in a school, on school grounds, during a school sanctioned activity. We would like to inquire whether the school is a private or public entity. In both instances, the school or school district would be responsible under respondeat superior. In addition, the new law specifically holds public entities like schools and hospitals responsible for childhood sexual assault and abuse and that statute of limitations has been greatly extended. It is in your best interest to come into the law firm and again meet with our compassionate and highly trained and experienced attorneys who will be happy to give you a free evaluation of your case.

I was abused by a scoutmaster as a child. What should I do?

This question is very apropos especially since the Boy Scouts of America has just recently as of 2/7/2020, filed for federal bankruptcy protection in court which stays any civil action against them until the stay is lifted by the court. However, you are encouraged to still come into our office and help us prepare the facts and collect the documentation so we can set up a timeline to more accurately pinpoint the identity of the scoutmaster, whether they or the particular local Council has adequate assets and insurance. We also will hire a qualified and experienced investigator to interview other boy scouts who may have been in your troop or council to build your case. Because it has been estimated that more than 12,000 boys have been molested by 7,800 abusers since the 1920’s according to Scout files released in Court papers, it is best for you to have our law firm expedite your claim so that you have at least a chance to get some compensation with limited and dwindling Boy Scout assets. The bankruptcy will enable the organization to put your case on hold for now allowing the Scouts to continue to operate. However, the Boy Scouts will be forced to sell some of their vast land holdings including campgrounds, hiking trails, swimming pools, clubs to raise money for a victims’ fund that could exceed $ 1 billion. Instead of speculating please feel free to make an appointment with one of our California childhood sexual abuse lawyers. We would welcome you to our offices and we would try to find a way to link you up with the best local psychiatrist/counselor to help you through the healing process until your case can be sorted out by the courts and by our law firm.

How long do I have to file?

This depends upon your age, and when you discovered that you were either sexually abused as a child or when you discovered the aftereffects of the abuse. The new law under AB 218 gives you a minimum of 3 years or a 3 year “window of justice” as it is called. That would be three years from January 1, 2020 and so that means you can be 70 or 80 years old and you still benefit from this new increased statute of limitation in which to file your lawsuit. This new law recognizes modern psychology’s complexity and idiosyncrasies. There is also a five-year window of time after you discover the childhood sexual abuse and its aftereffect but overriding all of this is a new statute of limitations which was raised from 26 years old to 40 years old. So, for those who are younger than 40 years old they are encouraged to immediately file before that statute runs out. Those who are older than 40 years old there are two competing timeframes as mentioned above. Again, we would be happy to further discuss these issues with you so that you don’t fall afoul of this new legislation, AB218.

How much do you charge?

We work entirely on a contingency basis and if we don’t recover any monies for you for any reason, i.e. if the person who was most responsible died or does not have any insurance or any major institution behind him/her, then you owe us nothing. The law allows attorneys to work on a pure contingency basis where we are taking a chance on the strength and viability of your case. At the very end of your case we would again review your contingency fee agreement, complete a cost accounting so that you may approve all of the fees prior to disbursement. The usual and customary contingency fee percentage is usually 33.3% but it is subject to negotiation.

What should I do if a priest sexually abused me?

First and foremost, please make an appointment to come to our office immediately so that we can collect the information and build a chronology of the time when the priest was at the parish or at the church or rectory when you were there. We do extensive research on the abusive priest and cross reference against any of the list of priests who have been formally defrocked by their parish and the Vatican and placed on certain lists. We do a lot of cross referencing and double-checking to make sure that we are on firm legal ground while at the same time we help you through the healing process. That could mean we help you find a suitable and appropriate counselor and we have one in mind and she is recognized as the the top expert in California for childhood sexual abuse cases. The sooner you come into the office the faster we can work toward getting you a full and fair settlement, especially if there are many lawsuits against a particular parish since they may threaten bankruptcy or run out of money to pay you for the harm that the sexual abuse caused you.

What can I expect once I hire you?

You can expect a very hardworking team of attorneys, paralegals and staff to immediately begin working on your case. Secondly, you should expect follow up and feedback at every substantial step that we make on your behalf. Whether it is getting a letter/demand letter out to the Archdiocese or to the Boy Scouts of America you will not have to guess what we are doing on your behalf. Once you hire our law firm, we are committed to you and your healing process and helping you get through this very trying time. The legal system is oftentimes slow and laborious, but we will clearly explain all the steps that you will need to take to ensure that you get the just compensation that you deserve. Great communication between attorney and client is paramount. Please feel free to consult with us. Everything you convey to us will be held in strict confidence. There is no obligation to hire our law firm.

Do I have to go to court?

The answer is no. On most occasions we have settled cases of childhood sexual abuse and assault through what’s known as a mediation or a negotiated settlement process. There is also an arbitration process which we can explain to you which a little bit more formal. The over $5 million-dollar priest abuse case that we settled against the Santa Rosa Dioses for nine plaintiffs in 2007 was settled out of court in an arranged confidential settlement where all of our clients had their names deleted from the court file and they were replaced by Does. We do not prefer to victimize or re-traumatize you again by having you endure a long court or trial process. We much prefer settling your case for a full and fair monetary compensation. This negotiated process reduces lawyer fees and costs thus putting more money in our clients’ pockets where it belongs. It’s a win-win for everybody.

If you are a victim of sexual assault, we are here to help. Here are a few questions that we frequently answer about our work for justice.