I recently learned of an interesting and very tragic story involving a wrongful death lawsuit.
The wrongful death incident happened in 2012 but has new heightened awareness thanks to a husband and wife filmmaking duo who created a documentary called Audrie and Daisy – a 2016 Sundance Film Festival Pick. The film sheds light on teenage sexual assault and its devastating consequences – especially with the magnification of it all through social media and cyber-bullying. Daisy, from Maryville, Missouri, and Audrie, from California, were both young teenagers who found themselves in horrible situations – they drank too much, blacked out and ended up sexually assaulted by boys they knew from school. And then, to make matters worse, social media helped spread the story (and photos) compounding the humiliation.
Audrie and Daisy
The documentary (now on Netflix) follows their stories and their communities and how the girls and their families were ostracized and harassed – and essentially blamed. Daisy, from Maryville, is still recovering, although thankfully thriving in college and engaging in advocacy work for PAVE (Promoting Awareness Victim Empowering). Audrie’s story is far worse. She committed suicide shortly after the incident.
Audrie’s family brought a wrongful death suit against the three boys who violated her. They eventually settled in a unique way. The families of the two boys agreed to pay close to a million dollars as part of the settlement. What’s very interesting are the non-monetary and creative clauses in this wrongful death settlement. They are as follows:
- Admittance of the allegations on the record
- A published apology
- Appearance in the aforementioned documentary (to the tune of a 45-minute interview)
- A 30 and 45-day sentence. (Note that two of the boys were allowed to serve on the weekends so that they could continue to stay in school)
- Publicly speaking out on “sexting”, “slut-shaming”, the dangers of alcohol and drugs and distributing nude photos. Each boy must give 10 presentations on the topic to a high school or youth organization.
It is still unclear as to whether these boys are truly remorseful for their actions.
The settlement was fairly minimal due to the fact that the boys were minors. Of interest, last year a bill was passed called “Audrie’s Law” which increases penalties and decreases protection for teens convicted of sexual acts of this nature. It requires convicted minors to complete a sex offender treatment program and they will no longer have the option of paying a fine or doing community service work. This case is a good example of how thinking outside the box can lead to unique and create solutions. We once handled a wrongful death case where part of our settlement was that the defendant set up a bench with a plaque in honor of the deceased. I think that bench meant more to the widow than the money we got her. Justice doesn’t have to always be about monetary compensation to the victims. Sometimes there’s room for actually trying to make the work a better place.