Pursuing a civil lawsuit for sexual assault in Minnesota

by Chris Kuhlman on March 15, 2016

There are good reasons to report a sexual assault to the police, to let prosecutors bring charges, and to get justice through the criminal justice system. You are probably already familiar with this general process from reading the newspaper or watching shows like Law and Order: SVU. But pressing criminal charges is not the only option. Instead of, or in addition to a criminal investigation and charges, a sexual assault survivor can bring a separate civil lawsuit against the person who attacked them and caused them harm, and sometimes even against other parties if they were negligent in allowing the individual to perpetrate the assault  in some way.

What are some of the differences between a civil sexual assault lawsuit and a criminal prosecution for sexual assault?

  • Personal control over the lawsuit.  Prosecutors work for the community in general, not for specific crime victims. While prosecutors may be in contact with the victim and ask for their input, they ultimately decide whether to pursue a case, dismiss a case, or what deals to offer the Defendant in a sexual assault case even if the victim does not agree with their decision.  Civil lawyers, unlike prosecutors, work exclusively for their individual clients.  This means that the Plaintiff in a civil case can determine whether to settle the lawsuit or pursue trial.  The civil attorney works exclusively for his or her client and thus focuses solely on achieving the victim’s goals.
  • Different remedies.  In a successful civil lawsuit against a sexual assaulter, a victim can usually only recover monetary damages to compensate the victim for medical costs, therapy costs, emotional pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.  In a criminal case, the focus is on punishing the criminal with jail time or labeling him or her a sex offender.
  • A lower burden of proof. In order to convict someone of a crime, the prosecutor must show that the defendant committed that crime within a reasonable doubt which is the most difficult standard to prove. In a civil case, though,  a plaintiff need only prove her case by a preponderance of evidence which means the defendant more likely than not  committed the unlawful act.

Common Civil Law Causes of Action pursued in Minnesota

Most civil sexual assault cases are tort actions.  Torts are “civil wrongdoings,” or illegal actions that are addressed in civil court rather than the criminal system. Specific causes of action that a victim may be able to bring against a sexual assaulter include (but are not limited to):

  • Battery and Assault: intentionally causing a harmful or offensive contact or the fear of contact with someone else’s physical body – including contacts that you knew or should have known the other person would consider offensive (punching someone, hugging someone who has made it known they don’t want you to hug them).
  • Sexual Battery: intentionally causing harmful and unwanted offensive sexual contact with the victim.
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress: a tort that addresses conduct so far outside societal norms – not just rude, not just mean, but downright traumatizing – that it causes emotional distress to the victim

Victims of Sexual Assaults can also pursue civil lawsuits against businesses and employers who allow the perpetrator access to the victim.

A victim can also bring some third party causes of action against the assaulter’s employer, the victim’s landlord, or others in certain rare circumstances. For instance, if a hotel does not have adequate security and a rapist gets access to and attacks a hotel guest as a result, the guest may have a case against the hotel for its negligence.

If the victim and the perpetrator both work for the same employer, the victim may also be able to pursue a sexual harassment case against the co-worker who sexually assaulted her as well.

Minnesota Sexual Assault Lawyers Representing Victims of Sexual Assault

If you or a loved one have suffered a sexual assault, and want to know more about pursuing a civil lawsuit against your attacker, contact Minnesota sexual assault civil lawyer Christopher Kuhlman at Kuhlman Law, PLLC.  We are experienced at representing victims of sexual assault and have achieved exceptional results for our clients.  Contact us today for a free initial and confidential consultation to learn more about your rights and legal options at (612) 349-2747 or electronically here.

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