Articles Posted in Sexual Abuse and Assault

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sexual-abuse-attorneySexual abuse is a prevalent problem in youth sports. Many people have heard about the pervasive sexual abuse that was perpetrated against Olympic gymnasts by a gymnastics doctor. In Brown v. USA Taekwondo, Cal. Ct. App. Case No. B280550, the court considered whether organizations could be held to be responsible for the sexual assaults and abuse that are perpetrated by coaches that are certified through the organizations.

Factual and procedural background

Brianna Bordon, Kendra Gatt, and Yazmin Brown were teenagers who took taekwondo lessons from Marc Gitelman, who was certified by USA Taekwondo to coach athletes who wanted to try to be selected for the Olympics. All three girls were 15 or 16 at the time. Gitelman sexually abused all three girls, and he was subsequently arrested and convicted of several felonies.

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sexual-abuse-attorneyThe victims of sexual abuse committed against them in schools may file lawsuits against the perpetrators, administrators, and the school district when the school knew or reasonably should have known about the risk that the perpetrator posed to others. When these cases go to trial, plaintiffs may have to rely on earlier misconduct to show that the school district had notice. In D.Z. v. Los Angeles Unified School District, Cal. Ct. App., Case No. B283799, the California Court of Appeals reviewed whether the trial court should have admitted evidence of other prior misconduct on the part of a teacher to show that the Los Angeles Unified School District had notice that the teacher had a propensity to commit sexual abuse of students.[1]

Procedural and factual background of the case

D.Z. was a 16-year-old girl who was expelled from her previous high school because she reportedly threw a book at the school’s dean. She was subsequently enrolled at Miguel Leonis High School in Sept. 2010, a school within the Los Angeles Unified School District for at-risk students. The school consisted of four classrooms with the principal’s office central to each one. The principal was able to see into the individual classrooms through open doors. There were only 130 students at the school, so the setting was more intimate, and the students were able to develop closer relationships with their teachers than students were in larger schools.

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workplace-sexual-assault-attorneyIt doesn’t matter the nature of the organization – the workplace should feel like a safe and secure environment for its employees. However, in countless unfortunate cases, it can be a place of unwelcomed interactions leading to sexual discrimination, harassment, or worse – sexual assault.Not only are these actions physically and emotionally abusive, they create an unhealthy, unproductive atmosphere in the workplace that holds employers accountable. In 2018, the #MeToo movement raised considerable awareness and visibility of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, making clear the personal toll it takes on victims’ lives. As a result, more and more victims are taking legal action to bring justice and closure to their cases.  Sexual assault and sexual harassment are both situations that can be difficult to distinguish. For instance, a common question that arises in these cases is “Where does sexual harassment end and sexual assault begin?” Unfortunately, the answer to this question may not be as clear as you would think. Below we help to develop clarity around situations of sexual assault in the workplace, and what victims need to know after encountering such behaviors.

Understanding the Difference Between Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault in the Workplace

The difference between sexual harassment and sexual assault can be a gray area somewhat ambiguous to distinguish. Not only is there confusion between these terms, many people diminish sexual harassment as an issue that takes a distant back seat compared to sexual assault. The fact of the matter is, there’s considerable overlap between how these occurrences are defined, and within the continuum of harm, sexual harassment may eventually lead to sexual assault.

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A recent case that happened in Phoenix, Arizona shocked many people in California and around the world. The case involved a woman who has been in a vegetative state for years who gave birth. The woman’s case involves both potential criminal and civil liability issues. If it had occurred in California, there are a couple of potential causes of action that could apply.

Facts of the case

A 29-year-old woman who is a member of the San Carlos Apache tribe in Arizona suffered a near-drowning incident. She has been in a coma ever since for more than a decade. The woman has lived in a long-term care facility called Hacienda Health Care in Phoenix since that time. On Dec. 29, the woman gave birth to a baby despite the fact that she has never regained consciousness from her coma.

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sexual-abuse-attorney-los-angelesWhen people file civil lawsuits against entities, including churches, that might be responsible for sexual abuse that they have suffered, the organizations must comply with discovery rules. If they do not comply with discovery requests and orders, they may face sanctions. In J.W. v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, Cal. Ct. App., Case No. E066555, the court reviewed whether terminating sanctions were appropriate in a case in which the defendant refused to turn over documents despite multiple court orders.

Factual and procedural background

J.W. is a female who was born in 1997. She was raised from birth in the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have an organizational hierarchy in which the Watchtower serves as the central power. Underneath the Watchtower, the church’s structure is divided into circuits, which are each composed of from 20 to 22 congregations. Each individual congregation is governed by a group of elders. The elders are responsible for managing all of the activities of the congregation, including door-to-door proselytizing, finances, and determining the guilt and punishment of individual members who commit serious sins.

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When lawsuits are filed by plaintiffs against hospitals in California, the hospitals may file motions for summary judgment if there are no triable material issues of fact. In order to prevail on a motion for summary judgment, a hospital may call an expert witness to opine that the hospital met the reasonable standard of care. If the expert’s testimony indicates that the reasonable standard of care was met, the burden of proof then shifts to the plaintiff to show that there are still material issues of triable fact. If the plaintiff is unable to present evidence that there are remaining issues of triable fact, the court may dismiss the lawsuit. However, as Doe v. Good Samaritan Hospital Inc., Cal. App. 5th, Case No. F073934 shows, the burden will not shift to the plaintiff in cases in which an expert’s testimony is purely conclusory without any underlying facts to support the opinion.

Factual background

The plaintiff was a 12-year-old boy who had a history of Asperger’s syndrome and bipolar disorder. He was voluntarily admitted to the Good Samaritan Hospital, a psychiatric facility, after suffering from homicidal and suicidal ideations because of his treatment at school. At the hospital, he was placed in a room with a 10-year-old boy who had been involuntarily committed called K.W. The 10-year-old boy had been placed in the facility on a psychiatric hold because of homicidal ideations and an assault on his stepfather that required medical treatment. He was also thought to be a danger to his two younger brothers.

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Uber-Sexual-Assault-LawsuitsWomen in cities across the U.S. have reported being sexually assaulted by Uber drivers after ordering rides through the company’s ride-share app. Two women filed a lawsuit against Uber in November 2017 for its alleged failure to conduct stringent background checks. Seven more women were added to the lawsuit as plaintiffs through an amendment. Uber has responded by filing a motion to compel arbitration of the women’s claims, an action that the women and their attorneys are fighting. When there is a forced arbitration clause contained in a user agreement, there are some situations in which the court may invalidate it and allow the cases to proceed through the court system instead of arbitration. (Note: for a general overview of California law on civil lawsuits for sexual assault, visit our related post here ).


In Nov. 2017, two women filed a lawsuit against Uber after they were sexually assaulted by Uber drivers. The lawsuit was certified as a class action because hundreds of women across the U.S. have allegedly been raped by Uber drivers. The women are suing Uber because the company allegedly has inadequate background screening systems in place for its drivers. Uber filed a motion with the court in February requesting that the court compel arbitration in the case. The plaintiffs filed an amendment to the complaint on March 15 in which seven women were added as plaintiffs. The women and their attorneys are fighting the motion to compel arbitration and want to keep the case in federal court.

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In California, residential care facilities owe a duty of care to their residents. In some cases, that duty extends to when the residents are off of the facility’s campus, depending on the circumstances. In Doe v. FamiliesFirst Inc., Sacramento Superior Court, case number 34-2014-00172564, how that duty applies when residents wander off of campus and are harmed was demonstrated.

Factual background of the case

EMQ FamiliesFirst was a residential care facility that provided educational services, housing and mental health to children between the ages of six and 15. The plaintiff was a child who lived in the home and received services. He was sexually assaulted when he wandered away from the facility.

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sexual abuse, sexual assault, California Attorney, VictimsTwo patients of Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital filed complaints against Cottage Health System in 2013 for alleged sexual abuse. Just recently, a third patient filed a lawsuit against the company for the same reason. The lawsuit alleges that nursing assistant Pedro Hernandez sexually abused a disabled patient who is only being identified as “Manuel T.” According to the complaint, Mr. Hernandez began abusing 69-year-old Manuel T. in a sexual manner in 2012 and that the abuse continued until 2014.

In July of 2014, authorities filed charges of sexual battery against Mr. Hernandez for sexually assaulting Manuel T. and another patient, but the wife and conservator of Manuel T. claims that she did not learn this information until after several months had passed. The complaint specifically states that administrators deliberately withheld this information from the patient’s family members.

The History of Complaints against Pedro Hernandez

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