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JKS Of Counsel, Richard Maurer, gets defense verdict in Philadelphia
20 November 2013

From the first meeting with our client, the case seemed impossible to win.  After drinking heavily at a family celebration, our client sexually molested the plaintiff, his adult niece by marriage. To make matters worse, our client was convicted criminally based on his actions, when he was represented by a different lawyer. In addition, the case had the potential for serious financial consequences for our client.  He had no insurance coverage for the claims, but substantial amounts of individually held property (including a collection of vintage automobiles), which the plaintiff could potentially reach if she obtained a judgment against our client at trial.

 

However, the more we learned about the case in discovery, the more we had hope that things would not turn out as badly as our client feared. First was the fact that the plaintiff was also extremely drunk at the time of the incident, and photos taken of her that evening (sitting on her uncle’s lap) suggested that the contact was more consensual than plaintiff was willing to admit. Second, while plaintiff blamed her diagnosis of depression and use of related medication on our client, her medical records revealed that she had been taking Effexor and Prozac for several years before the incident occurred.

 

And in a decision that ultimately “backfired” on the plaintiff, she first decided to see a therapist more than two years after the incident, in what we suspected was an attempt to generate a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which could be used against our client at trial.  However, at each treatment session the therapist recommended against plaintiff filing the lawsuit, going so far as to state that it would hinder plaintiff’s recovery, and the ultimate goal of getting on with her life.  When Richard took the deposition (pretrial examination) of this expert, he agreed that it would have been good to know several key facts about the plaintiff (her relationship, her pregnancy and impending marriage) before reaching a final diagnosis of PTSD.  Notably, plaintiff had denied these circumstances at her own deposition, and they were ultimately revealed by her sister.

 

The first days of trial were difficult, as plaintiff described the incident in tears, and her sister likewise cried through her description of witnessing the incident when she stepped into the darkened room where it happened.  However, the defense rallied by persuading our Judge to preclude the diagnosis of PTSD, on grounds that the therapist had not applied the recognized psychiatric criteria before diagnosing the condition.  As a result, the jury never heard expert testimony that the plaintiff had PTSD.  In addition, we were able to get plaintiff’s claim for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress dismissed before the jury decided it, because plaintiff had not sustained a physical injury as required by Pennsylvania law.

 

While our witnesses refuted the claim that plaintiff was forced into the situation, we reported back to the Courtroom in City Hall with some trepidation when the jury reported that it had reached a verdict.  Plaintiff and her entire extended family gathered, sensing an impending victory.  When the jury foreperson instead announced that our client had not committed a battery, and that plaintiff’s verdict was therefore zero, it was the end of a three-year battle for our client and his wife – to regain some measure of respectability in the family, and to be free from the threat of a damaging verdict.

 

As trial lawyers, our main job is to tell the your side of the story, however difficult that job may sometimes be.  We look forward to our next opportunity to take a tough case to trial.