Webinar Replay: On Sexual Abuse Damages with Atty. Carly Sanchez

In California, sexual abuse cases may give rise to civil liability for money damages, whick may include statutory damages, economic and non-economic damages, and punitive damages. These damages are discussed in greater detail by Atty. Carly Sanchez: 

Statutory Damages

CCP 340.1 was ammended last year to allow for treble damages in some sexual abuse cases. 

As ammended CCP 340.1 now states: 

  • CCP 340.1(b)(1):In an action descibed in subdivission (a), a person who is sexually assaulted and proves it was as the result of a cover up may recover up to treble damages againts a defendant who is found to have covered up to the sexual assault of a minor, unless prohibited by another law.

CCP 340.1(b)(2): … “a ‘cover up’ is a concerted effort to hide evidence relating to childhood sexual assault.

The amended CCP 340.1 also extended the definition of “childhood sexual assault”. 

Economic Damages 

These include: Past and future medical bills related to sexual abuse, psychotropic medications, therapy bills, past and future. Private/special schooling(children) and loss of earnings or earning capacity.

Non- Economic Damages 

  • 99% of your damages are non economic. This includes:
  • Shame, emotional distress, trust issues, etc.
  • Relationship issues. 
  • Substance abuse
  • Disordered eating
  • Loss of faith

Common Diagnoses associated with Non- Economic Damages are PTSD, Depression, Anxiety and Adjustment Disorder.

Punitive Damages 

As per CACI 3940: The purposes of punitive damages are to punish the wrongdoer for the conduct that harmed the plaintiff and to discourage similar coonduct in the future.

In order for you to get punitive damages, you need to have clear and convincing evidence and must prove the following: 

  • Malice – conduct which is intended by the defendant to cause injury to the plaintiff.
  • Oppression- despicable conduct that subjects a person to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of that person’s rights 
  • Fraud- intentional misinterpretation, deceit, or concealment of a material fact known to the defendant with the intention on the part of the defendant. 

Employers are generally not liable for punitive damages based on ab employee’s actions UNLESS: 

  • Knew of employee’s unfitness and employed with a conscious disregard for the rights and safety of others
  • Authorized or ratified wrongful conduct 
  • Personally guilty of malice, oppression, or fraud

If the employer is a corporation, the above must be done by an officer, director, or managing agent of the corporation. 

Based on the CACI 3947, one thing a jury must look at when determining what amount of punitive damages to award is whether the defendant’s conduct was reprehensible. To determine that, the jury can consider:

  • Whether the conduct caused physical harm.
  • Whether the defendant disregarded the health and safety of others.  
  • Whether the plaintiff was financially weak or vulnerable? Did the defendant know this and take advantage of him/her.
  • Whether the defendant’s conduct involved a pattern or practice.
  • Whether the defendant acted with trickery or deceit.

Loss of Consortium

  • Must be married. 
  • Loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support. 
  • Loss of enjoyment of sexual relations.

In order to build up these damages in court, you need experts to support your claim. The plaintiff’s experts can include psychiatrists (M.D.), psychologists (Ph.D.), and LMFT and/or LCSW. 

Depending on the specific facts of your case you can also need to include a life care planner, vocational rehabilitation expert, and/or an economist. 

Presenting Evidence at Trial

Defendants commonly argue that sexual abuse plaintiffs are not credible. Adult plaintiffs may be accused of only pursuing a lawsuit for the money, or they may be criticized for not fighting off their attacker or running away.

Child plaintiffs often recant their allegations and defendants may accuse parents or lawyers of coaching the child.

Both can be attacked for failing to keep their story straight, for long delays in coming forward with abuse allegations, for being too emotional, or not emotional enough when testifying, or for being able to overcome the abuse they endured. 

An experienced sexual abuse attorney can work with their client and experts to address these common defence arguments and ensure that their client is fully compensated for all the damages to which they are entitled in light of the abuse they endured.