Legal Question in Civil Litigation in New Jersey

Who's responsible?

A family member took a plea agreement for sexual assault. The victim is suing the place of business where she was ''supposedly'' abducted from. She is suing my family member& numerous other businesses, my family member has never owned 1 thing.If he is found guilty in the civil case how will she get any monies owed to her? Also since this is not a criminal trial can her sexual past finally be brought up?

Asked on 9/05/04, 1:20 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Alan Albin Alan S. Albin, Attorney at Law

Re: Who's responsible?

From your question, I assume that your "family member" pleaded guilty in criminal court to a "sexual assault."

A criminal plea of guilty for "sexual assault" would imply that the victim of the crime could sue the perpetrator civilly, e.g. for assault and battery, and perhaps under other legal theories of liability.

The victim could also potentially sue, in civil court, the employer of the criminal, depending upon the factual circumstances. There are a variety of theories of so-called "vicarious liability", such as respondeat superior. This means that under certain circumstances, the employer can be held civilly responsible for the employee's acts. One example would be where a truck driver negligently causes a motor vehicle accident while on the job for the trucking company. A second example would be where the employer knows that the employee has a propensity to commit criminal behavior on the job, but the employer fails to take reasonable steps to prevent that from happening.

You seem to suggest that your "family member" has no money or property, i.e. is "judgment proof." That means that even if the victim wins the civil lawsuit against your family member, she would not be able to collect on it. This is one of the reasons she/her attorney is suing other parties--i.e. the employer and apparently other entities that might bear responsibility for her damages. If the employer and/or other defendants are found separately liable, or jointly and severally liable, the victim could potentially collect her damages that way, even if your "family member" is "judgment proof."

Regarding whether or not the victim's "sexual past" might or might not be brought up at a civil trial, this depends on the particular facts and circumstances and how the case actually plays out at trial. In general, only evidence which is "relevant"--e.g. has some logical bearing on the outcome of the case--is admissible. Even if "relevant", evidence may be excluded if the judge thinks it would be confusing to the jury, inflammatory, or excessively prejudicial. Regarding a victim's sexual history, rape shield laws may also come into play. This is something that your family member should consult directly with an attorney about.

If you/your family member are considering retaining a private attorney for representation in this matter, please feel free to e-mail me at [email protected] or [email protected].

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Answered on 9/07/04, 11:41 am

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