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Fore! Negligence Law & Sexual Harassment on the Back Nine

I. Golf "A good walk spoiled"

One out of every six American women has reported being sexually assaulted or harassed in some way. The following case involves a very well-known, and extremely popular Country Club and a number of their staffers,  right outside of Charlotte. If there's many time where Mark Twain's observation about golf has proven to be quite accurate, it's this case involving Hogan v. FCC. The case was concerned over the treatment of waitstaff and one errant employee: or, ranting might be the more appropriate word. In cases involving mental or emotional distress as a negligence claim, allegations of sexual impropriety, advances, and unwelcome touching, are all often the best remedy for addressing these behaviors legally.

There is more to these emotional distress trials than a simple filing against the person who may have committed these improprieties. On occasion, the employer has acted (or failed to act) in a manner, which can stop this negligent harm from being inflicted. The following case suggests this two-staged --- what you might consider the front nine and the back nine --- of alleged sexual assault, harassment, and the severe emotional toll it often takes. Because of the dynamic issues involved, it takes a truly experienced negligence law attorney to investigate these charges in an appropriate manner.

II. A feuding food filing.

At the initial trial, the negligence law firm involved had its claims for emotional distress dismissed. The trial court had accepted the arguments of the defendants that workers compensation was the “exclusive” (meaning only) remedy for these allegations.

On appeal, however, the negligence claims for emotional distress clearly seemed to take these allegations out of workers compensation. After all, the negligence attorney proved, none of the female plaintiffs argued that they could no longer “make a living.” The Supreme Court apparently had no trouble to easily agree with the negligence lawyer on this point. They ruled that the wait staff had every right to pursue a claim outside of workers comp. This left significant issues, about the depth of harm. The negligence law attorney next argued if all or some of the plaintiffs could proceed with the trauma claims.

III.   Links & Intentional Trauma

The negligence lawyer introduced a series of witnesses to establish virtually irrefutable proof of the following types of conduct (by a man we will call HP:

“HP began making sexually suggestive remarks to her while she was working” ;

“HP began coaxing her to have sex with him” and telling her he “wanted to take her” ;

“HP would ‘brush up against her,’ rub his ***** against her buttocks and touch her buttocks with his hands… .”;

“…evidence suggested that she refused his advances at which time he screamed profane names at her, threatened her with bodily injury, and on one occasion advanced on her with a knife and slammed it down on a table in front of her.”

The result of these actions against this woman? She, not HP, was eventually fired from her job, while the man who had been making these advances was left in place.

Because negligence cases rely on matching solid evidence with procedural strategy, experienced litigation litigators often make or break a client's case. Here, the separate factual complaints of each plaintiff had actually added up to a complete picture. In other words, it was a wise strategy by the negligence attorney to have clearly obtained evidence from not just one or two plaintiffs, but many plaintiffs. Each of these plaintiffs added to the picture as women who had worked alongside the alleged offender.

IV.  Just short of outrageous...

The negligence lawyer was more than willing to concede that not all behavior was so shocking and outrageous as to give rise to a negligent suit for infliction of emotional distress. However, once the case was made that some conduct was outside the pale of any acceptable social behavior, this then created a fair implication. Specifically, whether or not there was a link between the offending employee and management's policies or actions.

The negligence lawyer was successful in showing that no one should be subjected to “ongoing sexual harassment ...without being afforded remedial recourse through our legal system.”  At the same time, allegations of other behaviors such as: throwing menus at the waitstaff, speaking degradingly in front of customers, shouting at the women severs. These behaviors did not rise (or sink) to the same level as the sexual contact. Parts of the complaint, which included these allegations as damages, were dismissed.

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court had strongly agreed, and condemned all such sexual and illicit contact and conduct. Thus, the negligence lawyer had established it was appropriate to leave it to the jury to decide. Did intentional infliction of emotional distress actually exist, and “whether or not that conduct was beyond the bounds usually tolerated by decent society” ?

An experienced personal injury law firm recognizes there is almost always going to be a consistent, last line of defense in these kinds of cases. Was the conduct of the employee so far beyond any norm, that it's unfair to think the employer should be blamed for it? One judge even noted that in different work settings, for example, foul language can sometimes be expected. This is not a particularly good defense in general. The point has to be made, and the negligence lawyer in this case made it very well, that if there was any knowledge imputed to the management, then there is a link established, for the jury to decide .

In this case, the several plaintiffs’ collaborative testimony was expertly developed by the negligence law firm, and established that management had been aware of the problems. Management had sought at some level to intervene. This was enough for the jury to be the determiner of the truth of employer complicity in the harassment.

Conclusions:   

The negligence lawyer in this case was successful in having the trial court judge reversed. The Supreme Court ordered that mental or emotional distress claims for several of the plaintiffs were indeed valid. The result was also to reinstate a claim because there were factual issues about what the manager did or did not know, or could or could not have done, to have stopped what was characterized as “outrageous” behavior. So, if you, a family member or a loved one have been hurt or suffered emotional trauma —or have questions about insurance claims or need help related to deliberate or negligent infliction of emotional distress, or involving related claims or your legal rights or hearings, please contact us. You will speak with a negligence law lawyer who can best answer your questions. There is never a fee for this initial consultation.

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