Sunday, December 28, 2008

Illinois Mental Hospital Rape Lawsuit Settled

From the Illinois Times:

On July 3, 1994, Lisa Weisser was raped by another patient at McFarland Mental Health Center in Springfield. That fact has never been in dispute: the rapist, Bryan K. Noel, pleaded guilty to sexual assault.

Weisser, however, believed the rape never would have happened if McFarland had handled Noel properly. She sued the hospital for negligence, alleging that staff at the state-operated hospital failed to exercise ordinary care to protect her from Noel. Earlier this year, in a unanimous opinion from the Illinois Court of Claims, Weisser won.

But the marathon legal battle left casualties — mainly Weisser, whose struggles with severe depression had led her to McFarland in the first place. She committed suicide in December 2005, about six months after testifying before the court of claims. Her husband, Mikel, received her monetary award just this month.

Weisser received half of the court’s $100,000 cap. After legal fees, his cut was $38,000. Some people may consider that sum paltry, after a 14-year fight, but Weisser says the lawsuit never was about money.

It was worth it to see the ruling that the state had been negligent,” he says.

Too often people who consider themselves decent human beings sneer when they hear that a civil suit was filed by a rape victim since the lawsuit fits neatly into their bigoted belief that many of those who report having been raped are gold diggers who were not harmed in any meaningful way.

This case shows just how wrong that bigotry is.

Too often the criminal justice system will not or cannot fix dangerous situations. Safeguards are often expensive and it is often only the fear of lawsuits which keeps those safeguards in place.

Those who try to block these types of civil suits often talk about frivolous lawsuits, but if they genuinely believe these lawsuits are frivolous, they are dangerous people who shouldn't be trusted with setting laws or policies.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:23 AM   0 comments links to this post


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