Lyndsay Markley is a prominent trial lawyer in Chicago. Although Lyndsay has successfully represented victims in all areas of personal injury law, since forming Lyndsay Markley Law in 2014, she has focused her practice on representing survivors of sexual and physical abuse. In the past four years alone, Lyndsay has secured tens of millions of dollars on behalf of these clients.
In this interview, Lyndsay tells AWTL about how one telephone call from a survivor of sexual abuse changed the entire scope of her practice.
Q: What led you to focusing on sex abuse cases since it is such a narrow area of the law? Was there something that really triggered your interest in these cases?
A (Markley): “For many years, I represented plaintiffs in all types of cases. One day I received a telephone call from an adult male describing sexual abuse he suffered as a child and teenager in the 1990s during his participation in a youth-serving program. Years had passed and nothing was done to provide him or any other victims with justice. As I listened to the plaintiff recount his abuse, I knew I wanted to help him achieve justice. I found my calling. That one call changed the focus of my practice and soon I was representing dozens of survivors.”
Q: In the news today, (December 27), is a story that 500 priests accused of sexual abuse have not yet publicly been identified by the Catholic Church. Is the church capable of investigating itself?
A: “In my opinion, a true review must come from the authorities; however, it is a positive step for any entity to engage in its own internal quality assurance and/or prevention assessment. In most states, many adults who work with children are “mandated reporters” of suspected physical and sexual abuse, however, prevention is greatly limited (if not entirely thwarted) when the only time adults are educated to report is after abuse has already taken place. It is essential for the protection of children that adults are properly trained to identify predatory and/or inappropriate behavior that indicates sexual abuse and signs of childhood sexual abuse.”
Q: How do predators get hired? Or remain on a job after exhibiting red flag behavior?
A: “Although each situation is different, generally speaking, hiring a “predator” can occur because an employer failed to perform a background check, including vetting references and engaging in an in-depth interview process that is specific to the level of interaction with minors the position requires. With respect to remaining employed after exhibiting “bad” behavior, many times, the predator grooms the other adults, including supervisors, by engaging in boundary violations of minors and awaiting to see the response. When the predator’s behavior is not addressed or stopped, it increases their confidence to engage in more boundary violations against children. That is why teaching adults to report inappropriate behavior toward children even if it doesn’t rise to the level of “sexual abuse” is so important.”
Q: How has the passage of time hurt your ability to gather evidence or to tap into memories?
A: “In the cases I have prosecuted, we were able to locate witnesses and documents corroborating a theory of liability against the defendant through diligent and aggressive investigation and discovery. For instance, in one case, it took two years of searching to locate, what turned out to be, a key witness.”
Q: How does the SOL affect your ability to obtain justice for survivors?
“The statute of limitations can be a hurdle based on the date of the abuse and other factors. Each state has a different statute and, usually, many versions of that statute that can impact a client’s ability to recover for abuse. Historically, the legislature and judiciary have not taken into account that many sexual abuse survivors did not understand their legal rights until many years after they suffered the physical violation. This will hopefully change with pressure from the #metoo movement.”
Q: How are proving injury and damages in these cases different than other cases?
A: “Demonstrating the significant impact of sexual abuse as an injury and as an economic loss is difficult for a number of reasons. In order to obtain the maximum recovery for our clients, we create a damage package for the specific client on a case by case basis that includes appropriate use of experts and expert analysis. It is essential to identify the nature of the injury and then work to demonstrate it. For instance, in one matter, the nature and extent of the sexual abuse indicated a traumatic brain injury. We worked hard with experts to demonstrate this permanent injury and its lasting consequences. Another consideration is whether or not the client’s trial recovery can be negatively impacted (based on the geographic location of the claim) by damage caps, i.e. limits to non-economic damages. In these instances, it is very important that the economic damages be clearly demonstrated through use of life care planners, economists, etc. Of course, an additional damage that can be very significant from a monetary perspective, is effectively proving up a theory that supports a claim for punitive damages.”
Q: How have you seen your clients lives changed after receiving damages?
A: “Most of my clients have done amazing things with the resources they received from the resolution of their claims. After obtaining financial resources, many of my clients were able to receive the treatment they have desperately needed but could not afford. I have also seen many of my clients go back to school or start their own businesses. For many survivors, the acknowledgment of their pain and loss by virtue of a resolution is very healing as well.”
Q: Are there that many pedophiles that we never knew about?
A: “I think that the answer is probably yes. Studies have shown that the number of reported sexual assaults are severely underreported. It might not be that there are ‘that many pedophiles’ but it might be that there is one pedophile with access to a lot of children. In most of the cases I have worked on, it is usually the latter of those two.”
“The real question is why are we missing it? I think children have been exhibiting signs of sexual abuse or even telling adults that they have been sexually abused for years. In the past, deference usually has been shown to the adult which allows the adult to abuse again. I think that it is more commonly the case that one predator abuses multiple children.”
Q: Where is your practice now and where do you see it going?
“Currently, I am expanding my work on behalf of survivors by providing consultative services to attorneys and law firms on a national basis who are seeking to develop a practice representing victims of sexual and physical abuse. I am also working as a consultant with various organizations to create prevention programming specifically tailored to their organizations goals and risks.”
Lyndsay Markley Law regularly provides consultative services to attorneys and law firms on a national basis who are seeking to develop a practice representing victims of sexual and physical abuse. If you are interested in speaking with Lyndsay regarding consultation services for your cases, contact her at (312)523-2158 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lyndsay has received numerous awards and honors acknowledging her success as a trial attorney, including most recently, being named by The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin as a “40 Under Forty Illinois Attorneys to Watch” in 2018 out of over one thousand nominees. She is regularly interviewed by local and national media, bar associations, and professional organizations as a legal expert.
Lyndsay is licensed to practice in Illinois and was designated as a Trial Attorney to the Trial Bar of the Federal Court of the Northern District of Illinois by the time she was 27 years old. Lyndsay has practiced pro hac vice in a number of States. Before opening Lyndsay Markley Law in 2014, Lyndsay served as a named equity partner at an established Chicago law firm and, notably, was the law firm’s youngest and first female partner in its 60-year history.