Riverside Superior Court (Settlement Outside of Court)

Riverside Superior Court (Settlement Outside of Court)
Result: Confidential Seven-figure Settlement

Irvine, CA

Irvine trial lawyer Gregory G. Brown and Michele M. Charbonneau  obtained a confidential, seven-figure settlement in a case against a church and its senior pastor for the rape of a minor female parishioner, Jane Doe, by the church’s music minister. In filing suit, Jane Doe alleged sexual battery, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the perpetrator. Jane Doe alleged negligence; negligent failure to warn, train, or educate the plaintiff; negligence supervision; negligent hiring and retention; breach of fiduciary duty; fraud; and infliction of emotional distress against the defendant church and defendant senior pastor, according to the complaint filed in Riverside County Superior Court, case number RIC1112278.

The senior pastor and church avoided a trial by agreeing to settle the case against them just a few months before trial, according to the settlement documents.

The perpetrator of the rape was hired by the church as the Director of Music. During the case, it was learned that the perpetrator was arrested on defendant church premises based on felony criminal charges for sexual intercourse and lewd acts against a female minor parishioner from another church, San Bernardino Superior Court case number FVA800373. The perpetrator pleaded guilty prior to trial and was sentenced and placed on formal probation, according to court documents. As part of his probation, the perpetrator was prohibited from being in contact with minors unless supervised by a reasonable adult who was aware of the circumstances and approved by the Probation Department, according to court documents.

Subsequently, the perpetrator was arrested for violating his probation terms and served one hundred and fifty-six days in jail, according to court documents. After the perpetrator served jail time, he was again hired as the music minister by the defendant church at the insistence of its senior pastor, despite opposition of church elders and pastors, according to court documents. The perpetrator was placed in a visible leadership role and was also involved in the day-to-day operations, organization, and all other aspects of the music department, including the Youth Choir practice sessions, according to court documents. In addition, the perpetrator had access to the minor female parishioners’ contact information. The church and senior pastor were aware of the perpetrator’s past criminal conviction and had, in fact, run a background check on the perpetrator prior to his re-hire that confirmed his prior conviction, according to court documents.

Although the church and senior pastor advised the parishioners in 2008 of the perpetrator’s first arrest, they failed to give notice or warning to new parishioners of the perpetrator’s past felony criminal convictions, according to court documents. Prior to the rape, complaints had been made by parishioners and employees about the perpetrator’s inappropriate conduct and contact with minor female parishioners, according to court documents. In addition, the church and senior pastor learned that the perpetrator, then 26 years old, was involved in an inappropriate sexual relationship with a young female parishioner 7 years younger than the perpetrator, according to court documents. The perpetrator, though, was not terminated from his employment, according to court documents.

According to court documents, shortly after, the perpetrator picked Jane Doe up from school without the knowledge of her parents, teachers, or school officials, and without the supervision of an approved adult, and took her to his apartment, where he sexually assaulted her. The perpetrator then returned Jane Doe to her school, where the police were contacted, according to court documents. According to court documents, after being on the run for 3 days, the perpetrator turned himself in. Criminal charges were filed against the perpetrator in Riverside County Superior Court case number SWF1100951, and he was subsequently arrested. The perpetrator pleaded guilty, according to court documents. As a result of his guilty plea, the perpetrator was sentenced to prison and was required to register as a sex offender, according to court documents.

Jane Doe hired Gregory G. Brown, a Certified Trial Specialist and partner in the Irvine litigation firm of Brown & Charbonneau, LLP.  The perpetrator defaulted on the allegations against him, according to court documents. Later in the case, Jane Doe received permission from the Court to allege punitive damages against the church and its senior pastor, also according to court records. During the parties’ second mediation session, the defendant church and Jane Doe reached an agreement to settle the case outside of court in exchange for a seven-figure settlement amount. By agreement, the terms of the settlement are confidential.