Jury Awards Victim $4.6 Million for Sexual Assault
Sexual assault is both a crime and a civil wrong in Florida. This means that the state can prosecute offenders and send them to jail or punish them in other ways, such as fining them or putting them on probation. Victims can also bring a civil lawsuit in Florida court for money damages, which are meant to compensate victims for their injuries. Although no amount of money can really make up for a sexual assault, civil lawsuits are key to holding rapists and other abusers accountable when the criminal justice system otherwise fails.
A recent jury award out of Alachua County is heartening for sexual assault victims. In this case, the jury awarded the victim $4.6 million for injuries she sustained at the hands of her father over more than a decade.
The Facts of the Case
Rebekah Trahan, 31, alleged that her father, Scott Mulholland Sr., sexually abused her for a period of sixteen years, from ages 8 to 24. Mr. Mulholland is the CEO of U.S. Building Consultants Inc. in Florida. This case was actually tried twice. In the first trial, the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict, so the judge declared a mistrial.
In the second trial, the jury found for the plaintiff, Rebekah Trahan. She alleged that she had experienced sexual abuse from ages 8 to 18, and then physical and sexual battery from ages 18 to 24. Rebekah also sued her mother, alleging that she was negligent for failing to protect Rebekah from the abuse.
The jury’s $4.6 million verdict includes compensation for lifelong medical treatment as well as for Rebekah’s mental anguish. Defense counsel did not recommend a figure for the jurors but left it up to them to decide.
Civil Trials and Criminal Trials
Neither Mr. Mulholland nor his wife has not been charged with any crime because the statute of limitations expired by the time Rebekah informed police about the sexual assault. However, she was able to bring a civil case, which had a longer statute of limitations.
This is only one of the ways that civil sexual assault differs from criminal sexual assault. Another key difference is the burden of proof. In a criminal case, the jury must find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a very high standard. By contrast, in a civil case, the jury only needs to find that the defendant committed the act by a preponderance of evidence, meaning it is more likely than not that the defendant committed the sexual assault. Accordingly, it is possible to win a civil sexual assault case against a defendant even if he is acquitted of criminal charges.
Speak to Bundza & Rodriguez Today
This lower standard of proof should allow many victims to bring cases which prosecutors refuse to bring for lack of evidence. Our clients report feeling a sense of vindication when a jury agrees with them that they have suffered sexual assault.
For more information, please contact us today. One of our Daytona Beach sexual assault lawyers at Bundza & Rodriguez, P.A. can meet with you to discuss the details of your case. We offer a free, completely confidential initial consultation to all who are interested. Please call 386-252-5170.