Wilmer J. Harris of Schonbrun Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP Announces $5.3 Million Jury Verdict for Child Molestation Resulting from Group Home Negligence

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On May 12, 2017, employment and civil rights attorney Wilmer Harris obtained a jury verdict in Los Angeles County Superior Court, North Central District, Burbank (Hon. William D. Stewart), Case No: BCC544628, on behalf of a child victim of sexual assault during his residency at Five Acres Residential Group Home in Altadena, California.

Minor Recovers over $5,300,000 in Damages

The trial lasted two months and included testimony from over 30 witnesses. Plaintiff brought suit against Five Acres on May 2, 2014, alleging eight causes of action arising out of four sexual assaults he suffered at the hands of an older and larger Five Acres resident. According to court documents the perpetrator had a history of sexually predatory conduct, which should have disqualified him for placement at the facility. Nonetheless, court documents allege Five Acres not only allowed the perpetrator into the group home but also failed to supervise him adequately. “Group homes must place the safety of these vulnerable children above all else,” said Harris, applauding the jury's decision. "Tragically, Five Acres failed my client and allowed him to be victimized on multiple occasions." Plaintiff's CCP Section 998 offer, in the amount of $2,000,000, was also rejected with no counter offer made prior to the start of trial. The jury rejected defendant's arguments, reaching a verdict for Plaintiff on May12 on his claims for Negligence and Breach of Fiduciary Duty. With respect to the negligence claim, the jury apportioned 95% of the fault to Five Acres and 5% of the fault to the perpetrator. The jury awarded $5,000,000 in non-economic damages and $354,000 in lost earnings capacity. “My client's greatest wish throughout this ordeal was that no other child will have to endure the horrors of his suffering at Five Acres or other group homes. We sincerely hope that all group homes put the safety and well-being of the children above financial considerations. My client and I are grateful to the jury for helping us send this strong message."

About Wilmer J. Harris
Phone: 626-441-4129
Fax: 626-283-5770

Mr. Harris graduated from Stanford University in 1986 with an A.B. degree in Economics, with Distinction, and Honors in Humanities. He was elected to membership in Phi Beta Kappa in 1985.

Mr. Harris graduated from UCLA School of Law in 1990, earning Order of the Coif honors and American Jurisprudence Awards in Evidence, Moot Court and Remedies.

Mr. Harris worked as Law Clerk to the Honorable David W. Williams for one year after law school graduation. Mr. Harris entered private practice thereafter, practicing business litigation for two years with the law firms Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler and Blanc, Williams, Johnston & Kronstadt.

In January 1994, Mr. Harris joined the Law Offices of Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. His practice area changed dramatically as he began representing clients in civil rights cases, including Reginald Denny.

In August 1995, Mr. Harris joined the firm now known as Schonbrun Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP where he has concentrated primarily on the representation of employees in disputes with employers and individuals in civil rights cases.

In November 1999, Mr. Harris opened the South Pasadena office of the firm where he remains the resident partner.
Mr. Harris is a frequent presenter at MCLE seminars. He has been named a SuperLawyer for many years.

Mr. Harris was co-lead counsel on a class action wage and hour case against Bank of America that resulted in a $41.8 million settlement, USDC Central District of California Case No. 13-CV-00561 DOC (JPRx). Mr. Harris has also achieved seven figure trial results in individual plaintiff cases.

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