Selected Case Summaries – Civil Remedies for Victims of Crime
ASSAULT AND BATTERY
R. J. v. Polaris Industries, Inc. and Cyclone Security Guard, Inc. (2002)
R. J. had her own company, which sold specialty advertising items like mugs and pens. One of her customers was Polaris. She dealt with several employees at Polaris. On July 5, 2001, she made an appointment with Matheson at the headquarters to obtain an order. The plant was closed that day, but she was let in by the security guard and met by Matheson who escorted her to his office. Matheson placed an order and then tried to persuade R.J. to stay with him. When she refused, he grabbed her, bound both of her wrists and ankles with packing tape. He then photographed her, and tried to kiss her. He eventually let her go. She reported the crime to law enforcement, who learned of other similar incidents and found photo albums in his home filled with bondage photographs. He pled guilty. R. J. settled her suit against his employer and the security company for a confidential amount.
CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
Raschke v. Executive Director of Living History Farms (1997)
Lisa was a little girl who loved horses. When she was 8 years old, her parents took her to a 19th Century rebuilt farm open to the public for educational purposes. The Executive Director noticed the pretty little girl and offered her the chance to help with the many horses the farm used. Within a few months, the Executive Director began to sexually exploit her and ultimately by the time she was 10, he was raping her every time they were alone. He was a popular and well-known figure and he assured her that no one would believe her if she told. She never did. The abuse ended when she was 12. She grew up and got married. When she was 28, she read a newspaper article about the Executive Director who had moved to Davenport, became a TV station manager and was charged with statutory rape of three girls. What happened to her 16 years earlier returned to her conscious memory. The first thing she did was tell her husband and her parents. She then called the prosecutor, told him her story and offered her help. The perpetrator eventually pled guilty and was sentenced to prison in part because he knew Lisa was willing to testify. The lawsuit against Living History Farms for negligent hiring and supervision was settled for a confidential amount.
Greiner v. Greiner (1995)
Jane Greiner and her sisters were repeatedly abused sexually by her grandfather from the age of six to the age of sixteen. Unlike many children, Jane told. She told her mother. She told her grandmother. She told her teacher. All ignored her. When she reached maturity, she sued her grandfather for abusing her and her grandmother for not protecting her. Case settled for a confidential amount.
Ewart v. City of Keokuk, Lee County and Various Law Enforcement Officers (1993)
Melissa Ewart married Michael shortly after she graduated from high school and after the birth of her little girl. Michael hit her and threw things at her and the baby. Her attempts to get protection from local law enforcement failed. She left him after less then a year, but he continued to stalk her and threaten her. She continued to call law enforcement officials for assistance, to no avail. He stabbed her 32 times across the street from the Police Station and left her lying there to bleed to death in front of their two-year-old daughter. Case settled for a confidential amount.
Three Sudanese Immigrant Children v. Dominium, et al. (2012)
In April 2006, Fenway Manor, a low income apartment complex, hired a temporary maintenance man, Roy Harnden. He performed a variety of duties, inside and outside the building. Because he was a good worker, the maintenance supervisor offered him a permanent position, which he said he could not accept because “I could not pass the background check.” The maintenance supervisor told the apartment supervisor what Harnden had said and together they looked him up on Iowa Courts online. They discovered he was on the sexual offender register for assaulting children on two separate occasions. He was also on probation at the time for failing to register. The maintenance supervisor also called the regional manager and told her about what they had discovered about Mr. Harnden. Neither she nor anyone else took any kind of action to protect the hundreds of children who lived in the building to which Harnden had unfettered access including access to individual apartments. He lived, at least part time, in vacant apartments. He would play hide and seek with the children and give them pop and candy.
On Saturday, August 26, 2006, he was working in a ground floor apartment painting and repairing it. Four children, who were 11, 8, 6 and 5 were playing outside the apartment. The three younger children were Sudanese immigrant siblings. Harnden offered them pop if they would come inside the apartment and “help him.” They agreed, but once they got inside he locked the doors and tried to touch them. He chased them into a closet and turned off the lights and told them they could not get out until they gave him their clothes. The children were crying, but were unwilling to comply. Eventually, he got tired of holding the door shut and went back into the living room to get a beer and the children got out of the closet and fled to another bedroom which had a lock on the door, which they used. They then dismantled a floor register and tried to arm themselves with the metal bars. Everything was quiet, so they decided to try to escape the apartment, Harnden was lying in wait and threatened them with a knife, put the knife to the throat of the older boy, tried to pull down his pants and tried to get him to pull down the pants of the other children. The children got away, but one of them returned to the apartment and Harnden molested her by pulling down her pants and touching her genitals. The other children got help and reported the incident to the apartment manager. One of the moms called the police who arrived at the same the time that Harnden was in the parking lot. He confessed immediately, subsequently pled guilty and is serving 15 years in prison. Shortly thereafter, we represented the older boy with Attorney Linda Channon Murphy and reached a settlement immediately before trial was scheduled. This child talked occasionally with the oldest Sudanese immigrant child. He told her about his lawsuit and she got in touch with Linda Channon Murphy and together we filed the case involving the three other children. The children and their mother, who is illiterate and speaks no English, were all deposed. Because we had already deposed all of the representatives of Dominium, we agreed to use those in the second case. At a mediation conducted by Attorney Tom Finley, the case was resolved for $5,050,000.00.
Heidi L. v. Landlord (2004)
Heidi and her young daughter lived in an apartment in Perry. She selected the apartment based in part on the security features, which included locked entrances. However, other tenants would prop open the doors, despite her constant complaints. The landlord refused to take action to assure that the doors were closed and locked. In the middle of one night, Heidi woke up after a loud noise to see a stranger standing near her bed. The man had fallen through her kitchen ceiling while stalking her. She kept her composure and told him to leave. He admitted he had been watching her for months, and had gained entrance to the apartment building because the door was propped open with a cardboard box. He gained easy access to the false ceiling above her apartment through an unlocked utility room with flimsy cardboard walls. The police found several peepholes the intruder had carved in her ceiling. Heidi settled her case for a confidential amount.
Stephanie Marchese v. Comprehensive Management Services, Inc., and CMS Wellington, Inc. (2001)
Stephanie lived at the Wellington Apartments for five years. Rusty Sills was hired as a maintenance man in 1999. No one checked Mr. Sills background before hiring him and giving him full key access to all of the apartments. Mr. Sills used his master key to enter the apartments of female tenants when they were not present and steal their shoes and underwear. He entered Stephanie’s apartment several times and took her property. He was arrested in possession of her property in August of 1999 and pled guilty to theft on November 15, 1999. If the landlord had checked Mr. Sill’s record, it would have learned that he had a long criminal record involving his shoe fetish, had been frequently arrested, and was well-known to local law enforcement. Stephanie sued the landlord for giving a known criminal free access to her apartment. She settled for a confidential amount.
Monica Samuels v. Florida Hotel (1995)
The young woman on a business trip to Florida selected an inexpensive hotel. Her assailant easily entered her room with a brass key apparently retained when he previously stayed in the hotel, raped her and threw her over the outside balcony two stories to the ground, breaking her back. Case against hotel settled for confidential amount.
Crook v. Tavern (1992)
Angela Crook was only 19 when she went to a neighborhood bar with friends. At closing time, she was kidnapped in her own car from the bar’s parking lot and raped by a man who had become drunk in the bar. The convicted and jailed rapist was the most persuasive witness in our case against the bar which settled for a confidential amount.
Lipsmann v. Apartment Owner (1985)
Paulee was raped by an intruder who gained access to her first floor apartment through a defective horizontal sliding window. She had complained about the window’s failure to lock securely on three separate occasions in writing and several additional times by phone. No repair was ever effectuated. She was one of the very first rape victims to sue a landlord for creating conditions conducive to crime. The case was settled for a confidential amount.
(See Trial magazine article.)
Cynthia Yvonne Robinson v. Robert W. Shultice (2003)
Cynthia Robinson was only 18 when she came under the care of Cedar Rapids psychiatrist, Robert W. Schultice. For nearly 40 years he prescribed a wide variety of addictive prescription drugs. Cynthia spent those years in a fog, and often so drugged that she was completely physically disabled. Schultice was, in fact, prescribing these substances for several Cedar Rapids residents and was eventually charged with a number of federal drug crimes. He was convicted in September of 1999. Cynthia fought her way out of her addiction and brought suit against Schultice. Cynthia is a talented artist, but was unable to maintain employment during the time Schultice was keeping her addicted. The scheme Schultice operated was to prescribe addictive substances to people on federal government medical programs and to continue to provide them for decades and decades. People lost not only their employment, and their families, but some lost their lives. The case was settled for a confidential amount.
Robbins v. Metropolitan Medical Center, LLC and Dr. Colin Kao (2002)
Cindy went to the hospital for surgery. After the surgery, Dr. Kao, who was not Cyndy’s doctor, came into her room and fondled her breasts. Cyndy brought suit because of her concern that Dr. Kao was a repeat offender and needed to be exposed and stopped. She settled shortly after filing the lawsuit for a confidential amount.
SEXUAL ABUSE BY POLICE OFFICERS
Smith v. The City of Creston, et al. (2012)
The chief and assistant chief of police in small town Iowa are all powerful figures. In Creston, Iowa, those two police officials hung out together in bars around town. The city council was apparently aware that they were out drinking together. One evening, they went to men’s night at the local country club. They had several drinks and were the last two remaining at closing time. There was only one waitress on duty Lisa Smith. The assistant chief of police came behind the counter and raped her while she was standing, while the chief of police stroked her hair and told her she would be okay. Shortly thereafter, they left, with the chief warning her on his way out that “this never happened.” The waitress tried to do her usual closing routine, but could not continue. She went home and tried to forget about the rape, but she became physically ill. She finally told her boyfriend, who got in touch with a rape crisis center. The experienced, compassionate counselor stayed with Lisa throughout the criminal process. The two men were called to Des Moines by agents of the Department of Criminal Investigation and ultimately confessed. But when charged, they pled not guilty, pressed on through the criminal trial which found them both guilty and then appealed, which affirmed the guilty verdict and the lengthy sentences. Supporters of the police chief and assistant chief covered the small town with ribbons, attacked Lisa on local websites and generally caused her to fear for her life. After the criminal trial was over, Lisa brought a civil suit against the City of Creston, which was resolved by a confidential settlement. She hopes to use her settlement to finish college and become a rape counselor.
Doe v. Dallas County and Jailer (2011)
Jane Doe was arrested in Dallas County on public intoxication charges and jailed overnight. Three times during the night, the male jailer entered her cell and raped her. Though the jail was equipped with cameras, after a similar incident in the past, the jailer maneuvered her out of their range. She felt debased and degraded. She did not report the rape, but instead returned to her home in another state and tried to forget about it. She began to have nightmares and flashbacks and became increasingly depressed. She reached out to an Iowa friend from high school and told her the whole sordid tale. This friend was the first person she told about what happened and she immediately contacted our office. After discussing this situation, we got in touch with the State Division of Criminal Investigation, who assigned an experienced sexual assault investigator. Jane called the jailer and spoke to him about what happened, using a recording device to catch what was a near complete confession. Eventually, the jailer pled guilty and went to prison. Dallas County entered into a confidential settlement with Jane Doe, allowing her to get intensive treatment and start a new life in another Iowa city.
SEXUAL ABUSE BY TEACHERS
Dickinsen v. The Clinton Community School District (2018)
Jane Doe was 13 and in the 8th grade when she became the focus of the attention of a predatory teacher. He groomed her on social media and with gifts and unsolicited attention. Jane Doe’s grades dropped precipitously from her customary straight As and she stopped participating in her usual sporting activities. He even gave her a large trophy at school, reading a 2‑page egregiously inappropriate statement as the qualifications for the award over the school intercom so all the students and teachers heard it. The criteria for the award were personal and unrelated to academics or to extracurricular activities. He eventually engaged in sexual intercourse with her. He was charged and pled guilty to sexual exploitation and is serving time in prison. His conduct with Jane Doe and with other female students was repeatedly reported to supervisory personnel, who took no action.
The defendants paid $2.25 million and also agreed to significant policy changes and to training of all staff.
Bramow v. Cedar Rapids Community School District and Gary Lindsey (2002)
When Jennah was nine years old and in the third grade, Gary Lindsey, her music teacher molested her and two of her classmates. The parents of these three girls were stunned to learn that Lindsey had been fired from his first job in 1964 for sexually molesting a fifth grade girl, and that throughout his career, numerous children and their parents had reported his sexually inappropriate behavior with little girls and his violent behavior toward little boys. Over twenty-four years as a teacher in the Cedar Rapids School District, no fewer than five incidents of sexual misconduct toward female children had been reported. At least three incidences of physical and verbal abuse of male children were also reported. Lindsey was not prosecuted for his molestation of Jennah and her two classmates. The school district permitted him to leave his position “voluntarily” with his license to teach intact. The school even held a going away party for him.
The case had many significant legal issues. The Iowa Supreme Court reinstated the case after the trial court’s dismissal. Doe v. Cedar Rapids Community School District, 65 N.W.2d 439 (2002). By the time the case proceeded to trial, Jennah was seventeen. The jury awarded her only $20,000, which was not enough to cover the costs of the lawsuit. We appealed the damage award, but the Court of Appeals affirmed it.
Nichols v. Johnston Community School District and Gary Snyder (1997)
Sarah played girls’ fast-pitch softball from grade school through high school. In high school, Gary Snyder coached her. During her senior season, Snyder forcibly embraced her, placed his hands on her buttocks and caressed her. Sarah told her mom, who reported Snyder’s conduct to all of the appropriate authorities. Despite an investigation that confirmed that Sarah and several other players were sexually abused by Snyder, the School District refused to fire him. Sarah filed suit to stop him, but that did not cause the District to fire him, though the District paid a confidential amount to settle the case. We then pursued the matter on a pro bono basis through the Board of Educational Examiners. After a five-day hearing at which several of the players testified to Snyder’s inappropriate sexual conduct, the administrative law judge recommended that Snyder’s license to teach and coach be revoked. The Board, however, only suspended his license and ordered him to get counseling.
Jane Doe v. Davenport Community School District and Tom Jansen (1996)
Jane Doe was a fourteen year old student in Jansen’s talented and gifted speech class. Jansen eventually began giving her special privileges, writing her notes, and finding ways to spend time with her alone. He told her he was in love with her, and touched and fondled her. Ultimately, he initiated sexual intercourse, which occurred regularly on school premises, behind locked classroom doors, with papers covering the windows both during and after school hours. After several months, Jane’s mom found her diary and learned of the sexual abuse. Jansen resigned and pled guilty to sexual abuse. The school district settled for a confidential amount.
J.M. v. Riggert, St. Athanasius and Don Bosco High School (1993)
J.M. met Riggert as a 7th grade student. Riggert was a teacher and coach. She sexually abused J.M. from the time J.M. was 12 until JM was 20. Some of the abuse occurred on school premises. About two months after the sexual abuse began, J.M. reported it to the school principal, who took no action to protect her. She also told a priest who was her confessor. He, too, failed to protect this child. When J.M. went to high school, she also reported the sexual abuse to a high school teacher, and again no action was taken. The principal, the priest and the teacher were all mandatory reporters under Iowa law, and were required to report the abuse to law enforcement. None did so. The case was tried to a jury for approximately one week and settled during the trial for a confidential amount.