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Case Style: Jones, et al. v. Masonic Home for Children in Covina, et al.
Case Number: BC306444
Judge: Bruce R. Minto
Court: Los Angeles Superior Court, East District (Pomona South Court)
Plaintiff's Attorney: David Bigelow and Graham B. LippSmith of Girardi & Keese, Los Angeles (213) 977-0211
Nicholas Heldt and Ryan Harrison of Sedgwick Detert Moran and Arnold, San Francisco, California
Masonic Homes of California Held Liable for Childhood Sexual Abuse For Second Time - More Than $12.5 Million in Damages Awarded, Including Punitive Damages
On Tuesday, July 24, 2007, a Pomona jury found Masonic Homes of California liable for more than $12.5 million in damages to three adult-male victims who were sexually abused while they were children residing in the Masonic Home for Children in Covina. The award quickly followed the jury's unanimous findings that Masonic Homes of California knew or had reason to know that Wayne Rose, now of Newport Beach, California, was committing unlawful childhood sexual abuse, yet failed to take any reasonable steps to prevent further abuse of the plaintiffs. These three plaintiffs were the second trial group out of fourteen total plaintiffs who claim they were sexually abused by Masonic Homes of California's employees and agents while they resided in the Masonic Home for Children in Covina from the late 1960s through the 1990s. The plaintiffs in the first trial in October, 2006, 7 year old girls at the time of the abuse in the late 1960s, were awarded more than $3.5 million dollars by a jury that unanimously found Masonic Home knew or had reason to know the Home's agents or employees were molesting child residents. Nine of the remaining plaintiffs' cases against Masonic Homes of California are set for trial through July, 2008.
David N. Bigelow and Graham B. LippSmith of Girardi | Keese represented the plaintiffs in this and the previous trial. They also represent the remaining plaintiffs in the upcoming trials against Masonic Homes of California.
Headquartered in the Bay Area, Masonic Homes of California maintains two group residential care facilities in California, its Southern California facility in Covina and its Northern California in Union City. Nicholas Heldt and Ryan Harrison of Sedgwick Detert Moran and Arnold's San Francisco office represented Masonic Homes of California in both trials.
Now in their mid-forties, two of the three plaintiffs in the current trial started out in broken homes prior to placement in Masonic Home for Children in Covina as boys in the 1970s. The plaintiffs resided at the Masonic Home for as few as four years to as many as fourteen years during which they were each repeatedly sexually abused by the Home's employees and agents. The jury found the molestation by Rose started when the children were as young as twelve or thirteen and continued over a five year period before Rose left the Home in 1979. Two of the three plaintiffs testified they told the Home's administrator of the abuse and that nothing was done by the administrator or the Home to prevent further molestation.
In the liability and damages phase of the bifurcated trial, Masonic Homes of California denied any of the abuse happened and denied any person at the home was informed of the abuse.
Rose, an activities director and houseparent, testified he did not sexually molest the plaintiffs. However, the jury unanimously found Rose had sexually abused each plaintiff, some for more than three years. Rose also testified 171 times he either did not remember any person, place or event at the Home or that he did not know any persons associated with the Home, including at least one former child resident who was later employed by Rose outside the Home.
Masonic Homes of California also attempted to argue through Janet Warren, their only expert, that the Home complied with best practices of child rearing and that the general community was not aware of childhood sexual abuse in the 1970s. This expert testimony contradicted the testimony of Masonic Homes of California's former employees and residents who testified that the Masonic Home was aware of the dangers that pedophiles posed and attempted to prevent and detect sexual abuse at the Masonic Homes throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
At the close of the liability and damages phase of the trial, the jury found Masonic Homes of California knew or had reason to know Rose was sexually molesting each plaintiff in the 1970s. The jury found that, despite Masonic Homes of California's knowledge of the childhood sexual abuse, the home failed to take reasonable steps to prevent Rose from continuing to molest the plaintiffs and that Masonic Homes of California was negligent in its hiring, supervision and retention of its employees and agents.
Although the original statute of limitations for all of these plaintiffs' claims expired when they turned nineteen in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Plaintiffs filed their claims in 2003 under California's Childhood Sexual Abuse Revival Statute, California Code of Civil Procedure Section 340.1. Based on the jury's findings, all plaintiffs' claims for childhood sexual abuse were revived in the first phase of the trial.
At the conclusion of the liability and damages phase of the bifurcated trial, the jury awarded $2,814,600.00 in compensatory damages to the plaintiffs and found Masonic Home had acted with malice, oppression or fraud in its reckless disregard of the plaintiffs' rights, authorizing the imposition of punitive damages. After a brief punitive damages phase, the jury awarded $9,750,000.00 equally divided among the three plaintiffs.
Out of the hundreds of cases filed under California's Childhood Sexual Abuse Revival Statute, the vast majority of which are against the clergy, it is believed the two cases tried by Bigelow and LippSmith are the only institutional molestation cases revived and decided by a jury in Los Angeles County.
Outcome: Plaintiff's Verdict for $12.5 Million Compensatory Damages: $2,814,600.00 Punitive Damages: $9,750,000.00
Plaintiff's Experts: Unavailable
Defendant's Experts: Unavailable
Comments: Submit by Plaintiff's Counsel