Lane v. Ballot – How a Criminal Conviction Can Help a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Personal injury cases in Florida are predicated on the basis of harm caused by the action or inaction of another. In some cases, injuries that give rise to civil claims stem from a criminal act.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Claims regarding injuries sustained in an assault, rape or molestation can include demands for compensation for medical bills, emotional pain and suffering, ongoing mental health treatment and lost wages.

Even when a criminal and civil case stem from the same incident, they are legally separate and have expressly different purposes. While there are some instances in which a convicted criminal could be ordered to pay restitution to the victim by the criminal court judge, that is not the primary purpose of that case. Conversely, financial compensation for damages is the goal of civil litigation.

Our Fort Myers personal injury lawyers know even when cases proceed in two separate court systems, the outcome of a criminal case may bolster a victim’s position in a civil case.

An example of this was recently illustrated in Lane v. Ballot, before the Alaska Supreme Court. This case began with a brutal beating and rape of a woman in December 2008. The beating left her comotose for days, and even after she awoke, she was unable to attend to her personal affairs for months. The attack left her suffering with chronic pain and lasting humiliation, for which she sought compensation.

At the time of the attack, the defendant had three prior felony convictions – two for rape and another for attempted rape.

While the personal injury case against the defendant was pending, the attacker was convicted on charges of first-degree sexual assault and second-degree sexual assault, as well as tampering with evidence. We was sentenced to a mandatory 99 years in prison.

In the civil case, the defendant admitted all the allegations in his answer. At a status hearing in the civil case, the defendant’s lawyer acknowledged he had been convicted of those crimes on which the civil claims were based. However, the defendant, testifying over the phone, appeared to disagree.

The plaintiff’s lawyer sought a motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability. The motion was filed, but apparently was not supported by evidence (i.e., proof of the criminal conviction). The defendant didn’t file any opposition to the motion, but the court nonetheless denied it based on insufficient evidence.

Ultimately, the defendant’s lawyer agreed to attest to the fact that his client had been convicted in criminal court of the allegations. The court agreed, accepted this stipulation and granted summary judgment to the plaintiff, awarding her $150,000 in damages, plus interests, costs and attorneys’ fees.

The defendant later appealed on the grounds that the criminal verdict was not final, as he was appealing it. Further, he indicated the criminal verdict, which indicated he was guilty but mentally ill, was insufficient to establish the elements of the crime.

However, the state supreme court affirmed the grant of summary judgment, and the award to the plaintiff.

Contact the Fort Myers injury lawyers of the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Lane v. Ballot, July 25, 2014, Alaska Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Pretrial Investigation Critical to Civil Case Success, Aug. 6, 2014, Fort Myers Injury Lawyer Blog