Defending Civil Lawsuits for Sexual Assault and Rape

Posted By Galluzzo & Arnone || 22-Dec-2016

The attorneys and former Manhattan prosecutors at Galluzzo & Arnone have defended countless individuals arrested and accused of sexual assault crimes, from Class B felonies like Rape in the First Degree to Class B misdemeanors like Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree. Of course, our primary concern has always been to exonerate our clients or negotiate the best outcome under the circumstances. However, we are also careful to counsel our clients on the fact that, just because a criminal case has been resolved favorably, the battle may still not be over. Civil lawsuits for sexual assault and rape can arise and pose significant problems for those arrested for assault even after the criminal case has been put to rest. This is especially true where the accused are wealthy and/or famous, as the complaining witnesses (or “victims”) often see an opportunity for a payday. Indeed, many of the people who are sued for rape and sexual assault in New York are high net worth individuals (very successful professionals and investors) or celebrities (such as athletes or entertainers).

In New York civil law, rape, sexual assault and battery are intentional torts (or cause of action) which have one-year statute of limitations, meaning that any such lawsuits must be brought within one year from the date of the alleged violent act. (Note that there is no such thing as battery in New York criminal law – that word has only meaning in the New York civil law context). It should be noted that this statutory period is extended to 5 years, or one year from the termination of the criminal action, in civil cases arising out of various sexual criminal acts.

A guilty plea to a sexual assault case in criminal court can make it especially easy for a victim to pursue a lawsuit against the defendant. After all, a guilty plea is an admission under oath that the assault occurred which can be used against that criminal defendant in a civil lawsuit. After a guilty plea, it is effectively impossible for a criminal defendant to deny that he is liable for a sexual assault against the victim in a civil lawsuit without committing the crime of perjury. In these situations, the only issue to be determined in a civil lawsuit is the amount of money due to the victim, since liability is effectively admitted to.

Conversely, a dismissal of a criminal case does not prevent the complaining witness from pursuing a lawsuit against the defendant. You may recall that the family of Nicole Simpson Brown successfully sued OJ Simpson for a fortune in civil damages after he was acquitted of her murder in a criminal trial. This was possible because the standard of proof in a civil case is lower than it is in criminal court. In criminal court, a person is only guilty of assault if the defendant pleads guilty or if the evidence at trial proves his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In the civil context, a person is liable for damages if a jury concludes that the plaintiff has proven his case for assault and battery by a preponderance of the evidence. That latter standard – a preponderance of the evidence – simply means “more likely than not.” Clearly, it is easier to prove that something is “more likely than not” than it is to prove something “beyond a reasonable doubt”. Accordingly, the law does not prevent victims of sexual assault from pursuing civil claims for damages under this lower standard just because the criminal case was dismissed or did not result in a criminal conviction

Once liability is established, damages are then calculated based on the extent of the injuries suffered by the victim of the assault. Categories of typical damages include loss of earnings and wages attributable to the injuries, medical expenses, and pain and suffering (both physical and psychological).

Depending on various factors, a sexual assault lawsuit may be brought in state or federal court. Most are brought in Supreme Court in the state system, but diversity jurisdiction in some circumstances (where a victim and defendant reside in different states) can form the basis for a federal lawsuit instead.

The attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone have successfully defended several individuals sued for rape and sexual assault. Matthew Galluzzo is particularly qualified to handle these cases, having been a prosecutor in the famous Sex Crimes Unit at the Manhattan D.A’s Office (characterized in the television show Law & Order: SVU). He has been called upon countless times by television and news reporters to provide his expertise and insight into rape and sexual allegations, and has been recognized by the governments of the United States and South Africa as a leading expert on the subject.

If you have been arrested for rape or sexual assault, you should strongly consider retaining their services to defend you, as they can handle both the criminal and civil aspects simultaneously. There are obvious advantages to having the same attorneys for both cases, as it cuts down on the expense of having to get a second set of attorneys acclimated to the facts of the case, and also allows for the formulating of an early strategy that keeps both aspects in mind throughout. Additionally, we have worked alongside criminal defense attorneys to defend cases such as these, who appreciate having a knowledgeable civil litigator to advise them throughout the criminal defense process.

On the other hand, if you have been the victim of an rape or sexual assault crime, you may wish to pursue a claim for money damages. The attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone have also assisted individuals in pursuing such claims in civil court, and may be able to assist you as well. Depending upon the circumstances (i.e. the financial circumstances of the defendant and the strength of the evidence), they may be willing to pursue the case on a partial contingency basis, meaning that they accept a reduced hourly rate for their services in exchange for a portion of the recovery, or even possibly a full contingency basis. Their attorneys are uniquely qualified to represent you in these matters, as their team of lawyers consists of former prosecutors that successfully pursued countless assault cases in criminal court, and understand how to prove these types of cases at the higher “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.