Civil Justice for Crime and Sex Abuse Victims

Get The Personnel File: But Do It The Right Way

A recent appellate decision out of Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal outlines the procedure to follow when obtaining a personnel file of an alleged perpetrator from his or her employer. In Walker v. Ruot, the plaintiffs in an automobile negligence action alleged negligent entrustment of the vehicle as well as negligent hiring and/or retention of the employee involved in the accident. They served a request for production upon the employer seeking a complete copy of the driver’s personnel file which the trial court allowed without first conducting an in camera inspection. On writ of certiorari to the appellate court the discovery order was reversed and remanded.

In its opinion the appellate court noted that the employer lacked standing to assert the employee’s privacy interests (he had not yet been served with the complaint as his whereabouts were unknown) but the employer did have standing to challenge the relevancy of the discovery sought. The trial court’s error, in the appellate court’s opinion, was failing to conduct an in camera inspection to ferret out material related to compensation, benefits and the like from other material that could indeed be relevant to a negligent hiring or retention claim such as the employee’s training, competence, abilities and disciplinary history.

The lesson for plaintiff’s counsel is to simply not overreach. By all means, request the personnel file, but couple that request with a request for the in camera inspection. 

Court Decision Underscores Importance of Requesting Surveillance Tapes

A recent decision out of the Florida Second District Court of Appeal underscores the importance of requests for surveillance tapes – a piece of evidence that could prove invaluable in a criminal attack case. The case, Osmulski v. Oldsmar Fine Wine, Inc., was a slip and fall case where evidence of the fall was automatically deleted from the cameras and therefore was not available for discovery. The plaintiff’s attorneys sought sanctions for spoliation of evidence. The court denied any sanctions and held that as a threshold requirement a written request to preserve the tapes should have been made. Without such request the defendant was under no duty to preserve the evidence.

Criminal attack cases, particularly in the premises liability realm, may occur in the presence of surveillance cameras. Video evidence could prove invaluable to the whereabouts and exact circumstances of the attack. Counsel should make a request for such video evidence as soon as possible following retention.

Suit Alleges Starwood Hotels Negligently Allowed Sexual Assault to Occur

On Monday attorney Gloria Allred filed suit in a New York federal court alleging that Starwood Hotel’s negligence lead to a sexual assault on a hotel guest in Helsinki, Finland. Her client, a former investment banker, claimed she was sexually assaulted after a hotel desk clerk gave a copy of her room key to a drunken fellow guest because he claimed to be her husband. In fact, she was travelling alone and no one else was registered to her room. She claims that she has often stayed at Starwood hotel locations and expected “a certain level of security” there. Her suit alleges that the hotel did not ask the assailant for any identification or proof that he was in fact her husband.

An Introduction…

This blog/website  is intended to be a resource for victims of crime or sexual abuse seeking just compensation through the civil justice system. As I write this in December 2011 the news is filled with sordid reports of sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated on children at the hands of athletic coaches while their superiors looked the other way. As we dive into these issues we will clarify the related but separate roles of the criminal and civil justice systems and pinpoint the theories of civil liability alleged by the victims. I look forward to our dialogue.