A Denton County jury found two former North Texas high school football players civilly liable in the aggravated sexual assault of a young girl, and awarded $32 million in damages to the victim. Aldous \ Walker Attorneys Charla Aldous, Brent Walker, and Caleb Miller represented the victim, who was a 14-year-old ninth-grader at the time of the assault.
The unanimous jury verdict, returned on February 28, 2019 in the 462nd Judicial District Court, stems from an assault in 2012 at a student’s home. The victim, who is not being identified because she was a minor at the time of the attack, reported she had been drugged and assaulted by two football players from Hebron High School in Carrollton.
During trial, the jury heard testimony about the encounter, how the two athletes engaged in sexual acts with the victim simultaneously, and how, our legal team claimed, it was non-consensual.
One defendant who testified before the jury said the 2012 incident was a consensual act, not sexual assault, and expressed that if he were to encounter another female as intoxicated as the victim had been, he would still act and behave in the same manner. The same defendant also told jurors his only regret about the incident was that he “lost his virginity in that way.” The second defendant in the case, who testified via a recorded video deposition, invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. As is sadly common in sexual assault cases, neither of the two assailants were criminally prosecuted for their actions.
Ultimately, the jury sided with our firm’s client, awarding her $7 million for her economic and non-economic damages, and an additional $25 million in punitive damages.
An End to a Long & Arduous Legal Battle
Though “closure” may not accurately describe the outcome, especially for such a young victim who must face the profound and permanent repercussions of her attack, justice did prevail in ending a long and arduous legal battle. Previously, the victim and her family lost a civil suit against the Lewisville Independent School District over the attack and the bullying she experienced at school. Though the federal jury did not find the District liable, the judge did state the victim had been sexually assaulted.
As the second civil trial over the assault, Thursday’s resolution does mark a significant victory for our client, who has now obtained the sense of justice and the accountability her offenders have long evaded – both in the criminal justice system, where they were not criminally prosecuted by the district attorney’s office, and in her previous civil case against the School District.
Part of that victory includes the substantial award for punitive damages, which are awarded only in some civil cases. Punitive damages, or “exemplary damages” as they’re known in Texas, are awarded as a means to punish defendants for egregious acts, and to deter others from committing similar acts, or failing to prevent victims from suffering harm.
Civil Sexual Assault Lawsuits: Making Victims’ Voices Heard
The case and verdict demonstrate to all victim of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment about the power of stepping forward and pursuing a civil case to make their voices heard, get accountability, and seek justice. Unfortunately, in the criminal courts which employ the highest burden of proof—“beyond a reasonable doubt”—sexual assault cases are often not prosecuted because they are usually she said/he said situations which criminal prosecutors fear make prosecutions difficult. But because civil cases are separate and apart from the criminal courts and use a lower burden of proof—“the preponderance of evidence” or “more likely than not”— civil cases for sexual assault are not dependent on the prosecution or outcome of criminal charges. So it is often the case that the civil courts provide the best avenue for victims to obtain justice.
For these reasons, victims of any sexual assault or any incident in which defendants may be charged with crimes (such as drunk driving) should know criminal cases do not offer a viable source of compensation, nor are they dependent on the presence or outcome of any criminal charges (a person can be found “not guilty” in criminal court, and still held liable in a civil case). Pursuing civil lawsuits over these difficult issues, therefore, allows victims to fight for the justice and compensation they deserve, and help further the conversation about how our society addresses sexual assault, treats victims, and what can be done to prevent such acts from happening in the future.
As Attorney Charla Aldous says of our client:
“I cannot begin to tell you what this verdict means to our client. She is a brave young woman who stood for what was right against all odds. My hope is that she will be a voice for sexual assault victims who are afraid to come forward and hold rapists responsible for their actions.”
Aldous \ Walker: Fighting for Justice
Results in cases as difficult as these are what make our Civil Trial Attorneys at Aldous \ Walker so passionate about the work we do. In any case where victims suffer preventable harm, and in matters where victims often face uphill battles, scrutiny, and tremendous emotional suffering simply by bringing forth their allegations, we’re committed to being the bold and unwavering support system their need, and the experienced legal advocates they deserve.
Call (214) 307-6307 or contact us online if you would like to speak with an attorney from our firm.