Pennsylvania Supreme Court to Hear Argument in Precedent Setting Rape Case Against Philadelphia Phillies

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Representing victim for personal injury, Anapol Schwartz challenges consent of minor defense (case No. 4EAP2007).

An 11-year-old minor cannot be considered as a consenting individual in a sexual assault case, and it is important that the Court's decision prevents such minors from being revictimized in subsequent civil proceedings, allowing them to pursue the resources necessary to aid in their recovery.

On October 15, 2007, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hear an appeal of a lower court's decision in a 2000 case* (Pennsylvania Superior Court, C.C.H. v. Philadelphia Phillies, Inc., involving the assault and rape of an 11-year-old girl (Minor Plaintiff), after a Philadelphia Phillies game, by three teenage males working at Veteran's Stadium concessions.

The case presents a significant matter of first impression in Pennsylvania -- whether the defense of consent can be used in a civil trial for damages stemming from a criminal rape/sexual assault.

Minor Plaintiff's attorneys Alan Schwartz and Steve Pokiniewski, of Philadelphia law firm Anapol, Schwartz, Weiss, Cohan, Feldman & Smalley, P.C. , brought a claim in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas in 2005, attempting to recover compensatory damages for the Minor Plaintiff. However, the lower court judge permitted defendants to argue that the Minor Plaintiff consented to sexual contact, prejudicing the jury against the young victim.

After a jury verdict for the defendants and an unsuccessful appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, Schwartz and Pokiniewski petitioned for review with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Citing Pennsylvania law, they argued that a minor (under the age of 13) who is sexually assaulted cannot be held at fault.

Given the importance of this issue, the Women's Law Project and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief on behalf of 30 organizations committed to vindicating the legal rights of sexual assault victims.

"We believe that we will be successful in this case and extend our Pennsylvania legislature's intended protections to the civil realm," said Alan Schwartz. "An 11-year-old minor cannot be considered as a consenting individual in a sexual assault case, and it is important that the Court's decision prevents such minors from being revictimized in subsequent civil proceedings, allowing them to pursue the resources necessary to aid in their recovery."

Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women's Law Project, added "we need to protect child victims of sexual assault from physical and psychological harm. The defense of consent should not be available in civil cases stemming from sexual contact with a minor under the age of 13, where the Legislature has already precluded such defense in criminal proceedings."

Anapol, Schwartz, Weiss, Cohan, Feldman & Smalley (http://www.anapolschwartz.com) is a personal injury firm with law offices in Philadelphia, Reading, Media, Fairless Hills and Haverford, Pa., as well as Cherry Hill, N.J. The firm is a multi-faceted practice with a tradition of excellence in medical malpractice law, pharmaceutical mass tort, toxic tort, class actions, products liability, automobile, securities and wrongful termination litigation. Since its founding in 1977, the firm has grown to over 30 attorneys, and compiled a record of success exceptional among its peers.

*Case No. 4EAP2007

Contact:
Jennifer Wasilisin
215-793-4666
jenniferw @ toplin.com

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