Sexual Abuse / Sexual Assault Attorney in Manhattan Beach, California

Rape & Sexual Assault

Los Angeles, CA sexual harassment & employment attorney Natalie Weatherford talks about a case she worked on involving a woman who was raped at gunpoint.

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I recently just finished a case down – it was down here in Los Angeles, where a young woman was – she was an assistant manager at a Nordstrom store, and she was, you know, locking up the store, doing all her closing procedures, just like any other night, and Nordstrom had a procedure by which all of the employees were supposed to walk out of the back door of the store at the same time every night as a group. And they thought that this made it more safe for the employees if they’re all leaving together. So on the night of the incident, the victim, she was leaving through the back door with all her co-workers, and three armed gunmen were waiting at that back door for her, and all her employees to leave, because they wanted to rob the Nordstrom. All her co-workers were put into a bathroom. The victim was singled out and taken into a separate room where she was raped at gunpoint during the course of this robbery.

So this was a challenging case from a liability standpoint because the people that you would think that we would be able to sue, the perpetrators of the abuse, the rapist, and then her employer, Nordstrom, they – well, the perpetrators of the abuse are in jail. And they didn’t have any money or anything that we could recover. Nordstrom, her employer, has the benefit in California of the worker’s compensation exemption, so if she’s – she was injured on the job. She’s precluded from bringing a lawsuit. Her only remedy is through worker’s compensation. So we had to get creative and find other entities or people who were responsible for her harm.

And in this case it was actually pretty clear, because there was a security company who was charged with maintaining security for the premises around the store that she was raped at. And then the owners of the shopping center who were charged with hiring the security company, and also overseeing them, so at the end of the day, we brought sort of a premises liability, negligent security case, and that’s how we were able to hold the responsible parties liable for what happened to her. So this is a victim who had been through a lot. She not only had a civil case, but there was also a criminal case that she was involved in prior to the civil case, where she had to go into court and testify against the man who raped her at gunpoint.

So by the time we got to the civil case, four years after she had been abused, she was exhausted, devastated. It had impacted every part of her life. Every relationship she had been in had failed. She had been unable to concentrate on the career that she had wanted to pursue prior to being raped, so it was really important that we got her, you know, the most significant amount of money possible, because even though money can’t take away what happened to her, it could hopefully set her up for a better life and a better future. So after several years of very intense litigation, we were able to settle the case for a very high, seven figure number.

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