Record $28 million verdict for a single plaintiff against a religious organization. Alameda County.
Plaintiff was molested as a child by an adult from her church during door-to-door community visits. The written policy of The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society on secrecy regarding known abuse was at issue.
- Case Name: Jane Doe v. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., et al
- Court and Case Number: Alameda County Superior Court HG11558324
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
- Date Action was Filed: Friday, January 28, 2011
- Type of Action: Sexual Abuse
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Robert McGuiness
- Plaintiffs: Jane Doe
- Defendants: The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.The Fremont California Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, North UnitJonathan Kendrick
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $28,000,001
- Net Verdict or Award: $28,000,001
- Award as to each Defendant:
$130,000 economic damages jointly to all defendants; $6,870,000 non-economic damages (60% to Kendrick; 27% to Watchtower; 13% to Congregation) $21,000,001 punitive damages against Watchtower only.
- Economic Damages:
- Non-Economic Damages:
- Punitive Damages:
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 3 weeks
- Jury Deliberation Time: 3 days
- Jury Polls: 11-1 on negligence; 10-2 on malice; 10-2 on punitive damages
- Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Pending.
- Attorney for the Plaintiff: Furtado Jaspovice & Simons by Rick Simons and Kelly Kraetsch, Hayward
- Attorney for the Defendant: James McCabe, San Diego for CongregationJackson Lewis LLP by Robert Schnack, Sacramento for WatchtowerNo appearance by Kendrick
- Plaintiff’s Medical Experts: Lynn Ponton, UCSF, PsychiatryLaura Fraser, LCSW, San DiegoLaura Walton, M. D., Kaiser-Downey
- Defendant's Medical Experts: None
- Plaintiff's Technical Experts: Anna Salter, Ph. D., standard of care, WisconsinCarl Lewis, Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome, Half Moon Bay
- Defendant's Technical Experts: Monica Applewhite, Ph. D., standard of care, Texas
Facts and Background
- Facts and Background:
Jonathan Kendrick was reported to Watchtower New York and the North Fremont Congregation to have molested a 13-year -old girl in 1993. This information was kept secret from the Congregation members. Kendrick then repeatedly molested plaintiff, another Congregation member, between 1995 and 1996, when she was 9 and 10 years old.
- Plaintiff's Contentions:
That Watchtower's written 1989 national policy of keeping secret the identities of known child sex abusers within its Congregations allowed Kendrick to molest a second victim from within the same small Congregation, during "field service," the door-to-door preaching that is done by Jehovah's Witnesses. That this policy of secrecy was adopted by Watchtower to hide the existence of sexual abusers within its organization and to prevent lawsuits by child sex abuse victims who would not know that Watchtower had actual knowledge of prior sexual molestations by the same perpetrator.
- Defendant's Contentions:
That the policy of secrecy is not for the purpose of keeping abusers secret, and the molestation of another girl 2 years earlier had no relationship to the abuse of plaintiff. Defendants also disputed that Kendrick molested plaintiff during field service.
Injuries and Other Damages
- Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
2 years of serial, invasive sexual abuse at ages 9 and 10.
Lifetime PTSD, chronic; depression; a period of substance abuse between 2003 and 2010.
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: 0
- Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $130,000 present cash value
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: 0
- Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: 0