Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Assisting Victims of Sexual Assault in California

Assisting the victims of sexual assault is one of the most difficult yet rewarding tasks that I face as a California lawyer.  Being raped, molested, battered or abused is one of the most traumatic events that any person can experience and trying to sift through the evidence and piece together what happened and who may be legally responsible for payment of money damages to the victim is arduous.  People lie, cover ups are the norm, and finding answers seems almost impossible at the onset.  If a lawyer is persistent and aggressive, however, the light will be forced to shine and the truth can be revealed, which can then force those persons responsible to admit their faults and compensate the victim so that they can use these resources to move on with their lives. I thought I would share a few of these success stories as examples of being able to assist:

                                             Assisting Victims of Sexual Assault in California

Jane Doe 1: I had a client once who called me from a Motel 6 room.  She was living there in complete fear for her life as she had been sexually assaulted two days prior while trying to access a storage locker.  At the time she rented the locker, she advised the owners that she was a single mother trying to run a small business selling goods at a swap meet and needed to come and go at all hours to store and retrieve inventory.  She was assured that: 1) the facility had a secure and functioning front gate with electronic access only to patrons; 2) security cameras were located throughout the property; 3) that there as a "full time" security guard on the property.  We later found out that the front gate had enough of a delay that several cars could follow any person into the property after entry, the security cameras were "dummy" cameras "just for show" and that the security guard on duty clocked in on the evening of the incident and then just left, without any reason.

My client was severely injured and scared to go back to her apartment as the perpetrators had her wallet with her driver's license.  I found her good doctors to treat her, I found her a new place to live, I tried to comfort her the best I could.  I then spent the next year getting to the bottom of the negligent security problems for this property.  I was fought at every instance, witnesses refused to cooperate and be deposed without a court order, the defendant tried to stall the case until the criminal prosecution was "complete", knowing good and well that the perpetrators had fled to Mexico and would probably never be found and the investigation had no end in sight.

Finally, I was sitting in my office at about 4:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon feeling exhausted by the week's "battle" when I got a call from the defense attorney.  He said, "Well I don't want to do this but, I have been instructed to offer you our policy limit of $1,000,000.00".

A few weeks later, I gave my client a check for a significant six figure sum.  She could not be more thankful.  She said she was going to use the money to provide for her future medical expenses, move to a better part of town, and help put her son (a straight A high school student) through college.

I had done my job!!

John Doe: Persons with physical or mental incapacity or limitations seem particularly vulnerable to falling prey to sexual predators.  This was the case with John Doe. Placed in a private mental health care facility on a 72 hour hold (so-called "5150 hold" due to being a "danger to himself or others").  Obviously, persons who suffer mental breakdowns like this are in a delicate state when presenting themselves to the care of what should be medical professionals.  In this case, the "professionals" (namely a male medical staff person) took full advantage of the situation and committed multiples rape on the victim at the facility.  I wish I could say this was the first (or last) time I have seen this exact scenario play out (I am presently litigating claims with the exact same facts as I write this blog post).

John Doe was, needless to say, scared and distraught at his ordeal.  At the time and hour he needed comfort and care the most, he was violated and his condition was made even worse.  The medical facility immediately began denying any responsibility or prior knowledge that their employee had any inclination to commit such a "heinous act".  Through depositions and discovery, though, it was revealed that this was not, in fact, the first accusation of sexually inappropriate conduct by this individual perpetrated against a patient.  In fact, there had been several prior instances but, these were "unsubstantiated" (as defined by not having a witness to the event other than the victims).  I didn't buy this nonsense argument and I didn't think a jury would either.   After almost two years of hard fought litigation, I was able to convince the hospital which employed this individual that their position was simply not going to fly at trial.  A significant seven figure amount was negotiated to resolve these claims.  A client received a just and fair amount for his suffering.

I had done my job!!

 Importance of seeking the help and aid of a lawyer after suffering sexual assault or abuse:
These instances go to show that in the darkest of times, the victim of sexual assault or abuse cannot go it alone.  Doing so will simply serve to continue the pattern of depression and desperation that can make one spiral out of control.  Seeking prompt help in the form of psychiatric professionals is key to wellness.  Likewise, seeking the advice, counsel and aid of an attorney who is willing to stand up and fight the good fight to reveal the truth and to make the legally responsible parties pay for their wrongful conduct and negligence is equally as important. It brings a sense of justice to the victims, it deters the responsible parties from ever letting something like this happen again, and it brings a sense of closure to the situation by providing financial resources to allow people to find hope for the future.

This is the job and I am glad to do my part!

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