Case shows how tort reform harms victims of sexual assault

Lawyer John Fitch continues fight for Ohio rape victim and for the altering of the existing Tort reform legislation to remove damage caps and let a jury decide what pain and suffering really is worth.

slate-logoIn the early 1990s, Brian Williams, a youth pastor, allegedly tried to put his hand down the pants of a teenage girl named April Jokela. Years later, Jokela’s mother testified in court that when she complained to church officials, they told her, “Let’s just keep this quiet to protect our brother.”

In the early 2000s, Williams allegedly told 18-year-old Robin McNeal, during a meeting in his office, that “most men view women as a thing to be fucked.” She said he also told her that “he probably could get away with having sex with me right then and there in his office.” The woman, whose married name is Robin Weixel, testified that she reported Williams to church officials but that they made no record of it.

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Teen rape victim asks justices for full damages

The_Columbus_Dispatch_logoThe girl was 15 years old when she was raped twice by her pastor during a counseling session in 2008 at Delaware Grace Brethren Church in Sunbury.

Church officials knew the pastor twice had been previously accused of sexual misconduct with teen-age girls, but did not investigate or document the incidents.

A Delaware County jury subsequently found the church negligent and awarded the girl $3.5 million in damages for her pain and suffering.

But, since the judgment was at odds with a state law capping the amount of non-economic damages, a judge reduced the award to the maximum $350,000.

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State’s cap on damages in rape case questioned

The-Blade-LogoA state law limiting jury awards in most civil lawsuits should not be used to invalidate a $3.5 million verdict for a 15-year-old girl raped by a church pastor, her attorney argued Tuesday before the Ohio Supreme Court.

The case puts the high court in the potential position of rethinking a law it has already upheld.

“If (the victim), in the course of fleeing from the first rape, falls, trips, and scars her leg, this case goes from $250,000 to $3.5 million, because she has a disfigurement,” the victim’s attorney, John K. Fitch, said. “That, we say, is incredibly arbitrary and irrational.”

At issue is a 2004 law that limits civil damages in non-catastrophic cases, those that don’t involve something like the loss of a limb. The law does not cap economic damages for lost wages, medical costs, and quantifiable out-of-pocket expenses.

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Jury: Church owes $3.6M

The_Columbus_Dispatch_logoA Delaware County jury has found that the Grace Brethren Church of Delaware should pay $3.6 million to a woman who was sexually assaulted by a former pastor.

The jury found yesterday that the church was negligent in supervising Brian L. Williams, said attorney John K. Fitch, who represents the victim. Visiting Common Pleas Judge Richard M. Markus is yet to sign off on the final order.

The woman, who is now 21, was 15 when she was sexually assaulted by Williams during a counseling session in March 2008 while he was a pastor of the Sunbury Grace Brethren Church. Since then, she has been found to have post-traumatic stress, Fitch said.

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