Baltimore-Based Firm Files Civil Lawsuit in Sexual Abuse Case - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Baltimore-Based Firm Files Civil Lawsuit in Sexual Abuse Case

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SALISBURY, Md.- The Baltimore lawyers of two alleged sexual abuse victims on Wednesday filed civil complaints in Wicomico County Circuit Court against accused foster father Stephen Merritt and Mentor Maryland, a private foster child placement agency.  

Both complaints come in response to alleged sexual abuse by Merritt of two victims between January 1998 and December 2007. Mentor Maryland had worked with Merritt to place the foster children under his care. The lawyers say the agency failed to protect those children and thus, failed to do their job properly.

"Mentor Maryland had an obligation to safely place, monitor, and supervise the children," said lawyer Michael Belsky.

When asked for comment on the lawsuit, the Baltimore-based Mentor Maryland stated that the agency "conduct(s) regular home visits" and "quarterly healthy and safety checks" for every child it places into foster care.  The agency also noted that since the sexual abuse allegations first arose from a criminal investigation earlier this year, the children were removed from Merritt's home. The agency said it will continue cooperating with authorities in the criminal investigation.

The alleged victims' lawyers are seeking damages in the amount of more than $150 million, Belsky said. He also mentioned that he hopes more victims come forward now they have started the process. 

"One thing that has become clear as this case has unfolded through the criminal prosecution is that victims don't always know that it's OK to come forward," Belsky said.

As this civil lawsuit develops, state's attorneys are continuing their own criminal investigation against Merritt, 39, whose next hearing is set for 9 a.m. on July 15 in Wicomico County.

 

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