victims fight back: trend to third-party liability

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  • Victims fight back: Trend to third-party liabilityAuthor(s): Faye A. SilasSource: ABA Journal, Vol. 71, No. 12 (December 1985), p. 25Published by: American Bar AssociationStable URL: .Accessed: 14/06/2014 18:28

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  • LatuScope

    Victims fight back Trend to third-party liability

    Some have characterized the treatment

    of victims of crime as a national disgrace. But now victims have fought back and have laws on their side. Forty two juris dictions have victim-compensation stat

    utes, and last year Congress enacted the

    Federal Victims of Crime Act. These acts

    provide for financial aid and restitution for medical bills, lost income and other support for victims.

    More crime victims are going after not

    only offenders, but others alleged to have contributed to their harm through negli gence. Many courts are ruling in favor of

    victims under this so-called third-party

    liability theory. "More and more courts are finding for

    victims of crime," said David Austern, director of education at the Association of Trial Lawyers of America in Washing ton. "Courts seem to be expanding the

    rights of victims," said Austern, who is also chairman of the victims committee of the ABA Criminal Justice Section.

    Between 1982 and 1985, awards in these cases totaled more than $100 mil lion, said Frank Carrington, a lawyer in

    Virginia Beach, Va. He also co-founded Victims Assistance Legal Organization in 1979 to help crime victims. Carrington is studying third-party suits in a research project for the National Institutes of Jus tice.

    Victims rights litigation represents a new speciality in the personal injury field, said Carrington, who helped write the ABA Guidelines for Fair Treatment of Crime Victims and Witnesses.

    The case that tested the theory of

    third-party liability involved singer Connie Francis, who sued Howard John son Motor Lodges in 1976 when she was

    raped at one of the motels. She charged negligence in securing her room. A jury awarded her $2.5 million. Garzilli v. Howard Johnson Motor Lodges, 419 F.Supp. 1210. She later settled for $1.5 million.

    The notoriety of the case came not only from prominence of the plaintiff but also because of the legal theory, which has prompted a host of similar suits, Austern said. The bulk of the lawsuits have

    charged that landlords and public entities failed to secure premises adequately. The suits also have been brought against gov ernment and corrections agencies, alleg

    ing negligent release of inmates, Carrington said.

    Tracy Thurman (right)^a^id one of her attorneys, Judith Mauzaka, after a U.S. District Court jury in Hartford, Conn., awarded her $2.3 million.

    In a case involving a 10-year-old girl who was raped in an unsecured boarded

    up building, a Dallas state court ruled last year that the landlord had violated a

    city ordinance that required owners to

    keep their dwellings safe, Austern said. Nixon v. Mr. Property Management, 690

    S.W.2d 546.

    A 1985 case charged the Torrington, Conn., police department with failing to act on a woman's charges that her hus

    band had beaten and abused her. It was filed in federal court and alleged that the

    police department violated the 14th Amendment and the woman's civil rights. Thurman v. City of Torrington, 595

    F.Supp. 1521. Few third-party suits

    charge constitutional violations,

    Carrington said. But in Thurman a pat tern and practice of discrimination was found because the police failed to follow up on the woman's charges, he said.

    Defense lawyers agree that courts are

    liberalizing the law in this area, making these cases more difficult to defend. It

    Singer Connie Francis settled her suit for $1.5 million.

    used to be that it was easy to grant summary judgment for the defendants, said Thomas Crisham, a Chicago defense lawyer.

    These cases are harder to defend be

    cause victims are more aware of tort

    actions and plaintiffs' lawyers are using better experts and other tactics to prove their cases, said James Greene, a Wash

    ington defense lawyer who represents apartment owners and management com

    panies. ?Faye A. Silas

    Firing: A 'bust'

    Patricia Tinerella, 25, (above) of Omaha smiles after a Nebraska court upheld the state equal opportunity commission's award of $2,660 in back pay in September. A former employer had fired her because her 40-inch bust was "too distracting."

    December 1985 . Volume 71 25

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    Article Contentsp. 25

    Issue Table of ContentsABA Journal, Vol. 71, No. 12 (December 1985), pp. 1-112, 115-138Front MatterPresident's Page: Estado de derecho: The rule of law [pp. 8-8]Letters [pp. 12, 14]LawScope: NewsPress-sensitive: Prosecutors' use of media hit [pp. 17-18]Plan for profits: Tips for a better bottom line [pp. 17-17]Death for spies? Walker trials prompt debate [pp. 18-19]Cities besieged: Shelter from liability sought [pp. 19-19]Elusive refunds: Tax squabble in Rochester [pp. 20-20]Foreign lawyers: 3 bars urge licensing plans [pp. 20-21]Lawyer census: Ratio in private practice dips [pp. 21-21]Alarm on AIDS: Government bias feared [pp. 22-22]Victims fight back: Trend to third-party liability [pp. 25-25]Judging juries: Some cases too complex? [pp. 26-27]DA with punch: Reno prosecutor an ex-boxer [pp. 28-28]Revamping RICO: Congress gets into the act [pp. 32-33]Up to the bench: Wrap up practice with care [pp. 33-33]Back to the bar: Dodge potential conflicts [pp. 34-34]Leaving the law: Are reasons gender-based? [pp. 34-35]

    At Issue: The contingent fee time for a change? [pp. 36, 38, 40]LawPoll: Lawyers are serious about professional responsibility [pp. 41-41]SUPREME COURT PROFILE: To Win Your Case, Waive Your Fees [pp. 44-47]LITIGATION TECHNIQUES: 100 Days to Trial (Part II) [pp. 48-51]TELELAWYERING: Putting Your Firm on the Line [pp. 54-56]THE LEGAL YEAR IN PICTURES [pp. 57-64]ECONOMIC TRENDS: Are You Keeping up Financially? [pp. 66-68]PERSONNEL: Learning at the Knee [pp. 70-72, 74]Books for LawyersReview: untitled [pp. 78, 80]Review: untitled [pp. 80, 82]Noted in brief [pp. 82-82]

    Supreme Court Preview [pp. 83-83]Supreme Court Report [pp. 84, 86, 88, 90, 92, 94, 96]What's New [pp. 98, 100-105, 107-108]Your FinancesHow to build wealth [pp. 110-110]

    Legal Aids [pp. 112, 115]Computer Corner [pp. 116-116]Persuasive WritingWherefore the hereinafters? [pp. 118-118]

    Must Reading [pp. 119-120, 122]Inside ABANEWS UPDATE [pp. 123-124]LTAC REPORT [pp. 125-126]PUBLIC SERVICE PROFILES [pp. 128-128]EVENTS [pp. 132-132]

    War Stories [pp. 138-138]Back Matter