'Horror House:' $6.75M Pre-Trial Settlement Reached For NJ Woman Sexually Abused In Foster Care

They called it a horror house.

Plaintiff attorneys Vincent Nappo of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC and Matthew Bonanno, of Rebenack Aronow Mascolo LLP in New Brunswick, who won the settlement.

Plaintiff attorneys Vincent Nappo of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC and Matthew Bonanno, of Rebenack Aronow Mascolo LLP in New Brunswick, who won the settlement.

Photo Credit: Provided by Grace Gill Qayoumi

The Salmon household in Egg Harbor Township, that is. The foster home where a woman named only as J.T. was sexually abused by a man named Joseph Salmon during a five-week stay in 1972.

And now, the State of New Jersey has agreed to pay J.T. $6.75 million in a settlement expected to be reached, with a $25 million trial verdict for a similar case was obtained last month.

"The Salmon home was a horror house of abuse," said Vincent Nappo of the law firm Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC, who represented J.T. alongside Matthew Bonanno, of Rebenack Aronow Mascolo LLP in New Brunswick.

The Salmon home was eventually shut down, however, not soon enough.

Prior to J.T.’s abuse, two foster children complained that Salmon urinated on them, which is how young children often describe certain sex acts, Bonanno said. However, "little to no investigation was taken at the time to assess safety in the home," the attorneys said in a release.

"This complaint should have raised major red flags," said Nappo, "and should have prompted extensive action to investigate safety in the home before placing J.T. or other children in Salmon’s care."

In J.T.'s case, the State of New Jersey removed her from her family and placed her in the foster home of Joseph Salmon when she was 9 years old, her attorneys said. She lived there for five weeks, from May 5, 1972 to June 19, 1972, as Salmon sexually abused her and other children numerous times, including acts of forced oral sex and penetration, Nappo and Bonnano said.

The abuse suffered by J.T. only came to light after a prior victim of Salmon complained to police, leading to a criminal prosecutor and conviction in 1972 for the sexual abuse of J.T. and others.

At trial, Bonanno and Nappo were planning to argue no child should have been placed at the Salmon home due to the prior complaint, particularly where, as in this case, the complaint was never properly investigated to ensure the home was safe for children, they said.

"Little action was taken to investigate the Salmon home at that time, and as a result, J.T. and other vulnerable foster children were placed there and forced to endure horrific acts of rape and sexual abuse," the lawyers said in a joint release.

According to Bonnano and Nappo, the State is facing "dozens, if not hundreds" of sexual abuse lawsuits filed under the landmark Child Victims Act enacted in 2019, which revived legal rights of survivors of childhood sexual abuse to pursue claims against perpetrators and institutions that allowed abuse to happen.

J.T.'s settlement is the largest reached prior to trial with the State of New Jersey, Bonnano said.

"Our client is extremely happy with the settlement," he added. "While there is little doubt in our minds a jury would have returned a verdict many times larger, we are thrilled J.T. can put the case behind her and avoid the emotional toll of a jury trial."

Newspaper records show Joseph Salmon, a mechanic from Philadelphia and former firefighter, died in 2003 at 86 years old. 

The case was litigated in Middlesex County.

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