Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Minor Water Polo Player Sexually Assaulted by Referee Results in Jury Verdict in San Bernardino CA

After a day and a half of a 23 day trial, a San Bernardino County jury found Nicholas A. Simental, 27 guilty of engaging in a long term sexual relationship with a 15 year old female. As a result, Simental will have to pay $2,564,675 for medical, economic, and non-economic expenses. The verdict was concluded based upon the plaintiff’s diary documentation regarding the relationship which was discovered by the plaintiff’s father. After his discovery in July 2007, the plaintiff’s father notified police of the crime and the defendant was arrested the following month. 

According to the plaintiff, her relationship began in June 2005 and continued until November 2006. During this time the plaintiff became pregnant, but the pregnancy ended when Simental punched the plaintiff in the stomach. The plaintiff claimed that as a result of this incident, she suffered from post-traumatic stress and other psychiatric problems which influenced her drug addiction and suicide attempts. Medical experts Russell High, M.D., Teri Pokrajac, Psy.D., Kathy Hartmann, BSN, Christopher Thompson, M.D., and Amy Sutton, PhD. participated in the evaluation of the plaintiff’s psychological status. Simental admitted that the relationship did occur, but denied the plaintiff's claim of violence. 

While it seemed that the plaintiff’s father was the only one who was aware of this relationship, Simental and the plaintiff claimed that the officer of the Southern California Aquatics Federation’s officer, Stephen Born was informed by Simental about the sexual relationship after the parties’ first sexual encounter the following morning. Born denied this claim. Born also indicated that he had no reason to think that a sexual relationship occurred between the two parties. 

The verdict resulted in a judgment of $2,564,675 gross amount which will be paid as a net amount of $2,051,740.00. The net amount will be disbursed accordingly; $14,675.00 for past medical expenses, $50,000 for future medical expenses, $1,000,000 for past non-economic damages, and $1,500,000 for future non-economic damages. Simental will not have to compensate the plaintiff for lost wages. Punitive damages were waived by the plaintiff when the defendant stipulated to non-dischargeability of the judgment. The jury concluded that Simental was 80% negligent, the plantiff’s father was 15% negligent, and the father’s girlfriend was 5% negligent. The jury did not hold the Southern California Aquatics Federation or Officer Born responsible for Simental’s actions. Motions for JNOV and a new trial for this case was scheduled for January 15, 2016.

If the plaintiff’s father had not discovered the diary details, the sexual relationship between the parties could have started again without being noticed. Although Simental was charged with negligence, the plaintiff’s father and his girlfriend were also cited for negligence. This may due to their failure to stay abreast of the plaintiff’s activities while she was home alone. Officer Born may not have been found negligent because of insufficient evidence regarding his knowlegde about the relationship.

The jury could only draw their conclusion based upon the evidence they were presented with such as the plaintiff’s claim, the defendant’s agreement with part of the plaintiff's claims, and the plaintiff’s medical results. The verdict does not indicate how long the victim will be compensated for her medical expenses, but suggests that the compensation will be allocated until the maximum amount is reached.

The non-economic damages suggests that the plaintiff may need future psychological care due to the traumatic effect of the relationship and the abuse incident. Although the plaintiff has attempted suicide, it is not indicated whether this situation has affected her ability to work in the future. This lawsuit was filed October 19, 2010, took five years to litigate, and a new trial is underway. This lengthy process may have also negatively affected the plaintiff’s psychological well-being. Although the jury could not prove that Born was aware of the relationship, Simental was still held responsible for the majority of his negligent conduct. If the sexual encounters took place during times when Simental was absent from work, the Southern California Aquatics Federation and Officer Born should be held liable for negligence. The negligence could be proven if Simental's work performance or absences coincidence with the plaintiff’s claim of misconduct to some degree.