Punitive Damages Granted Against Archdiocese of Chicago

On February 9, 2016, Cook County Judge Clare McWilliams, ruled against the Archdiocese of Chicago on behalf of ‘John Doe’ whom the defrocked priest, Daniel J. McCormack, allegedly abused as a young boy at St. Agatha’s Parish in Chicago’s Lawndale neighborhood. The ruling on Tuesday means, many, if not all of the victims allegedly abused by McCormack can seek punitive damages if their lawsuits make it to trial. This could cost the Archdiocese millions of additional dollars, on top of the millions they have already paid out to sex abuse victims in this particular case.  Attorney Eugene K. Hollander of The Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander represented the victim, now in his early 20s, who alleged that McCormack sexually abused him while he was enrolled in third grade for a short period of time at St. Agatha's Parish. ‘John Doe’ alleges he was sexually abused twice while attending St. Agatha’s and that Father McCormack was a person he trusted, because he knew his mother. After complaining to his mother, he switched schools to finish out third grade. The pain and suffering ‘John Doe’ has endured since these encounters has caused severe problems in his life, including mental disturbances, sexual confusion and substance abuse. Evidence indicates that the Archdiocese of Chicago received warnings about McCormack's disturbing sexual behavior while he was in seminary, yet still chose to ordain him as a priest. Because of the negligent, willful and wanton acts of the Archdiocese of Chicago, ‘John Doe’ is joined by a number of other victims of horrific sexual abuse performed by Daniel J. McCormack. Attorney Eugene Hollander, says: My client is very pleased with the Court's ruling.  He looks forward to his upcoming trial, and having all of the evidence which supported the Motion for Punitive Damages placed before the jury. Eugene Hollander has represented five other victims who allege sexual abuse by McCormack. All of these claims have been settled with the Archdiocese of Chicago, including one for $1.25 million in May of 2015. There are currently around 20 pending lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Chicago related to allegations of sexual abuse by its priests currently proceeding through litigation in Cook County.

Hollander Law Offices Seeks Punitive Damages Against Archdiocese of Chicago

In a rare hearing, Eugene K. Hollander, representing an alleged sexual abuse victim of defrocked priest Daniel J. McCormack, argued a motion in the Circuit Court of Cook County yesterday, seeking to impose punitive damages against the Archdiocese of Chicago.  The former priest is alleged to have sexually assaulted Hollander's client when the victim attended St. Agatha's school in September, 2000.  At the hearing, Hollander argued that there were warning bells that the Archdiocese of Chicago ignored during his seminary days both at Niles College and the Mundelein Seminary.  Hollander argued that had the officials at Mundelein Seminary taken proper action, they would have expelled McCormack before he became ordained a priest in 1994.  Hollander also argued that the pastor at McCormack's initial assignment at St. Ailbe's was not provided all of McCormack's background information, and had he learned of certain key events, he would have prevented him from coming to his parish.  We expect a ruling on this motion by early next week.  The case is set for trial in July, 2016.

Tis the Season for Slip and Falls

With the holiday season upon us, and the weather changing, people are more likely to slip and fall on ice and snow and injure themselves.  Many people assume that if you slip and fall on someone's property that the homeowner is automatically liable.  That is not the case; rather, a property owner is only liable for injuries on snow and ice if there is an unnatural accumulation, or if the homeowner was negligent in removing the snow.  Thus, for example, a business owner can be held liable if there is runoff from a downspout which pools somewhere on the land.  Alternatively, the property owner can be held accountable if it removed the snow haphazardly.  First, and foremost, please take care this holiday season.  If, however, you fall and injure yourself on another's property, be sure to take pictures of the condition immediately which caused your injury.

Jennifer Lawrence Brings Attention to Equal Pay

Actress Jennifer Lawrence has been particularly vocal lately, speaking out on the pay disparity between actors and actresses.  Her complaint is nothing new, as there generally is a wage gap between men and women.  If a woman is being paid less than a man in the same position, she has a claim under federal law, pursuant to the Equal Pay Act.  The Equal Pay Act allows a plaintiff to reach back two years to recover the wage differential, and three years if it is willful.  Additionally, an aggrieved party may be able to recover liquidated damages, which is twice the amount of the wage differential.  Liquidated damages are presumed under the law.  Further, a plaintiff may recover attorney's fees if she is successful at trial.

Spotlight Movie Covers Priest Sexual Abuse Crisis in Boston

The new Open Road movie, "Spotlight," tracks the Boston Globe's coverage of the priest sexual abuse scandal in Boston.  Spotlight was the name of the investigative team of the newspaper which led the charge into breaking the story.  While it was long suspected that a handful of priests were involved in sexually abusing boys from broken homes, the reporters discovered that about 90 priests had molested hundreds of victims.  Using old church directories as one of their tools, the newspaper found that the archdiocese had shuttled many priests around from parish to parish, using various terms of sick leave to describe their absence from a particular church.  While many priests who were not accused of molesting children served seven years or more at a particular parish, those who were named as abusers, served a far shorter stint, usually two to three years.  Ultimately, the trail led up to Cardinal Law, who knew that a number of priests were involved in molesting children, but did not remove them from ministry.  Cardinal Law ultimately resigned from the Archdiocese of Boston. The Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander currently represents an alleged victim of Daniel McCormack, a laicized priest from the Archdiocese of Chicago.  McCormack has been accused of sexually assaulting many young boys from the west side of Chicago.  There are currently about 15 pending cases against the Archdiocese of Chicago involving McCormack claims.  McCormack pled guilty to sexually abusing five children. Hollander currently has a pending motion seeking punitive damages against the Archdiocese of Chicago for their failure to remove McCormack from ministry, based upon what knowledge they had at the time.  A ruling is expected in December, 2015.

Federal Appellate Court Gives OK To Discrimination Lawsuit Against Cook County

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court's decision to dismiss a Muslim woman's national origin case against Cook County.  Fozyia Huri, a Cook County Circuit Court employee, alleged that she was subjected to a hostile work environment for years.  Huri worked as a child care attendant until she was transferred to the court reporters' office in 2010.  She claimed that her supervisors screamed at her, accused her of misconduct, ostracized her, and denied her time off for a religious holiday.  She also claims that her employer retaliated against her after she made internal complaints.  The federal district court dismissed the case for failing to state a claim.  The federal appeals court disagreed, ruling that her allegations could be severe and pervasive enough to create an abusive environment.  Huri's case will now head toward trial.  It is possible that her case could be settled in advance, however.  Should Huri prevail, she would be entitled to recover compensatory damages and attorney's fees.

Rape Claim Yields 1,283 Allegations of Sexual Assault Against Match.Com

In a personal injury lawsuit pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County, a woman claims that she was raped by a man she met through the popular website , Match.com.  In the discovery phase of the case, the woman sought information concerning other sexual assaults reported to the website.  The plaintiff's attorney sought ten years of records.  Match, however, produced two years of records, or 1,283 allegations of sexual assault.  The website claims that prior to that two year period, it did not separately track the incidents.  The discovery request arises out of a claim that in 2009, the woman was sexually assaulted by Ryan Logan, who met her through the website.  The lawsuit was filed in 2011.  The issue has not yet been fully resolved by the Court.

Appellate Court Rules That Letter to Pastor Regarding Sexual Conduct is Not Privileged

The Illinois Appellate Court recently ruled that a letter written to a pastor of a Catholic church alleging sexual conduct is not privileged in the same manner that a confession to that clergy member would be.  Thus, the Court ruled that the Kane County pastor must reveal who sent him the letter.  The opinion did not disclose the name of the pastor.  In the letter, a parishioner alleges that her son had sexual contact with another minor of the church.  The church and pastor sought to bar disclosure of the letter, arguing that the clergy-penitent privilege barred its release.  The Court rejected the argument, and ruled that the author of the letter must be disclosed, but not the letter itself.

Pope Francis Visit May Stir Suppressed Memories of Sexual Abuse

Pope Francis' recent visit to the United States was historic and memorable.  He touched many hearts and connected with many spiritually.  His visit, however, may also have roused long suppressed memories and feelings.  Victims of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a clergy member, like a Catholic priest, may discover memories which they buried long ago regarding molestation.  Indeed it is a common psychological mechanism for those who have been sexually molested to either repress the memory or to suppress it.  In the former case, the victim completely blocks the memory out of his mind and is no longer conscious of it.  In the latter situation, the sexual abuse victim is still cognizant of what happened, but purposefully "places it away" so that he will not have to deal with it.  The recent visit of Pope Francis is similar to what happened when the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke, causing many sexual abuse victims to come forward.  Those victims who do recall such unfortunate events should contact a lawyer immediately as certain statutes of limitations may limit their ability to recover compensation for their psychological injuries.

Former Franchisee Can Pursue Discrimination Claim Against Culver’s

A black former franchisee of Culver's may pursue his racial discrimination claim against the fast food restaurant chain, a federal judge has ruled.  Michael Wilbern was one of the first African American franchisees of the chain and claims that Culver's hindered his operation in favor or a white franchisee in a neighboring community.  Specifically, Wilbern alleges that the chain blocked every proposed location which Wilbern had suggested because they were in a predominate African American neighborhood.  Instead, he claims that Culver's persuaded him to open up a restaurant in predominately white Franklin park.  Though he opened the store, it failed due to much higher rent costs.  Culver's denies any liability.  The federal court rejected an opportunity to dismiss the suit.  No trial date has yet been scheduled.