Church on the Hill Sex Abuse Jury Verdict

A Santa Clara County jury found the San Jose-based Church on the Hill negligent in connection to the sexual abuse of three young children. The jury awarded the three girls a total of $1,061,500 after they found the church liable.

Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Against Church on the Hill

The lawsuit (Santa Clara County Case No. 112CV221574) alleged that Church on the Hill provided a glowing recommendation for convicted predator Keith Woodhouse and did not report Woodhouse to police after the church was made aware that Woodhouse engaged in inappropriate sexual activity with a seven-year-old child in 2007. The young girl (Jane Doe, now 14) has serious medical and psychological problems stemming from this sexual molestation.

The lawsuit alleged that Pastor Sands and the Church on the Hill were well aware of Woodhouse’s inappropriate behavior towards young girls before Jane Doe was sexually molested. They even terminated his employment in 2004 for misconduct with children. However, three years later, they employed him again to work as a camp counselor. It was then that he molested Jane Doe.

Investigating officers believed that Woodhouse may have sexually molested as many as fifteen others during his time at Church on the Hill.

Following opening arguments in the case, Child Development, Inc. (“CDI”) paid an undisclosed amount to the victims. CDI hired Woodhouse to work at Trace Elementary Child Development Center without, as alleged by the plaintiffs, conducting a thorough past employment check. Arguably, Trade CDC violated state law by allowing an unqualified Woodhouse to be left alone with young children.

Sexual abuse attorney Robert Allard of the law firm of Cerri, Boskovich & Allard represented the families of the young children.

Allard stated, "We hope that this verdict will make our community safer for young children by serving as a wake-up call for trusted institutions who care for our kids to report suspected sexual predators and to thoroughly screen potential employees who will have access to children. Our clients are most pleased with the results as, in their minds, CDI stepped up to the plate to ensure that these children will be provided for in the future both by way of therapy and education. We are grateful for that."

Mr. Allard also stated, "Pastor Eliot Sands and Church on the Hill steadfastly denied that they did anything wrong, and therefore, we were forced to try this case to send the following message to the community: nothing is more important than protecting children from sex abuse. If you fail to make children safe from sexual predators by placing your own interests first, you will be held accountable in a court of law, either criminally or, as here, through civil litigation."

Allard also represents four more victims of sexual abuse by Woodhouse while students at CDI, as well as a child who was molested in 2007 while attending the Church’s summer camp called “Camp on the Hill.” Church on the Hill will now face another civil trial on behalf of these victims unless it takes responsibility for its actions.

"As a society, we all pay the price when a child is sexually abused,” said Allard. "This jury has sent a message to institutions of trust that they will be held financially liable for the long-term treatment and care of childhood molestation victims if they do not follow the law when it comes to protecting children from sex abuse."

Church on the Hill in San Jose

Church on the Hill in San Jose is a community where people from all walks of life come together to find a deeper, more meaningful life with purpose and meaning. This church aims to be a space where individuals from San Jose and the Silicon Valley can discover answers, healing, and hope through their faith journey. It's not just about attending services; it's about building a community where everyone feels welcomed and where people can grow in their faith together. 

Pastors and clergy are mandatory reports of sexual abuse. According to the lawsuit filed against the church, when San Jose Police Detective Erik Martin questioned Pastor Elliott Sands about his failure to report allegations against Woodhouse in 2007, despite being a mandatory reporter, Sands defended his inaction by claiming Jane Doe did not seem traumatized and refused to accept responsibility. Upon being warned by the detective about potential lawsuits due to his conduct, Pastor Sands reportedly shrugged off the concern, showing no emotion or remorse, and remarked, “Oh well, that’s what insurance is for.”

Cerri, Boskovich & Allard Hold Churches Accountable for Sexual Abuse

At the law firm of Cerri, Boskovich & Allard, we take a strong stand against churches that hide sexual abuse cases. Our San Jose sexual abuse lawyers work hard to ensure these churches can't ignore or keep sexual abuse a secret. When they do, we hold them accountable.

We fight for survivors of sexual abuse in churches and institutions, making sure they get justice and that their voices are heard. This isn't just about taking churches to court; it's about making them face up to what happened and forcing them to change so that more children aren’t hurt.

If you or someone you love suffered child sexual abuse in a church or religious organization, the attorneys at Cerri, Boskovich & Allard are here to help. We make sure that sexual abuse survivors are listened to and treated with respect. Winning these cases not only helps the survivors obtain compensation for what they went through but also shows them that they're strong and that what happened wasn't their fault.

Contact Our Child Sex Abuse Lawyers

If you or a loved one has suffered childhood sexual abuse, please call the law firm of Cerri, Boskovich & Allard. We can help guide you through this difficult time. Call our San Jose office at (408) 289-1417 or contact us online to schedule your free, confidential consultation.

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