The Insurance Journal website carried an interesting piece the other day discussing what may be the largest verdict in the history of the South Carolina court system. South Carolina Circuit Judge Stephanie McDonald recently order a Moncks Corner, South Carolina man to pay his ex-stepdaughter $14 million after the court found that the man had committed sexual assault, sexual battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress on the girl over a 10-year period.
The now-27-year old woman brought her claim after being unsatisfied with the criminal sentence faced by her ex-stepfather when he pleaded guilty to the crimes in 2003. The stepfather had received a sentence of only six years but was allowed to serve two years on probation.
As an Orlando child sexual abuse attorney, I am torn by stories like this one. On the one hand, I greatly admire the vast amount of courage that it must have taken for this young woman to come forward, and to publicly testify in open court about what happened to her. To her, this trial outcome had to represent a significant victory on several levels.
At the same time, I worry about whether all of her emotional pain and stress and the time and expense associated with trying a lawsuit, will end up being worth it. I don’t know anything about the stepfather in this case, but my experience with situations like this one is that abusive stepfathers who have been sentenced to prison rarely have assets sufficient to satisfy a $14 million final judgment. Unless there is some kind of negligent supervision-type claim, I cannot imagine any insurance policy covering this type of claim.
Lawyers who take on these kinds of cases normally do so on a contingency fee basis, this means that the lawyer does not get paid a fee unless the lawyer actually collects money for his client. I wonder how the attorney for the stepdaughter, in this case, was paid. It seems unlikely any money will ever be collected. If the stepdaughter was paying her attorney on an hourly basis, I wonder whether the attorneys’ fees and costs expended by her will take some of the joy out of the victory. Either way, I really hope that his woman somehow recovers enough money to allow her to receive outstanding psychological therapy and counseling. After being sexually abused for ten years, she undoubtedly needs it.
If you have any questions about a Florida child sexual abuse case, call Winter Park personal injury attorney Kim Cullen at 407-644-4444.