I blogged about Graves v. NES back on February 4th, when the Utah Supreme Court held that a defendant can compare the fault of an intentional tortfeasor– in this case a criminal– against its own fault on the verdict form. As you may recall, Graves involves a girl who was sexually assaulted in a group home for disabled individuals owned and operated by NES in Logan. The assailant was NES’ employee, Cooper, who had a history of sexual abusive conduct in a prior job.

Plaintiffs claimed that no references were checked by NES before hiring Cooper, nor was any training given to Cooper’s supervisors on preventing sexual abuse. Cooper eventually plead guilty to aggravated sexual abuse of a child, and is now serving a fifteen-to-life sentence. The girl’s parents sued NES for damages arising out negligence in the retention and supervision of Cooper.

Last Friday, October 2nd, a Logan jury returned a verdict for $12,500,000 against NES and Cooper. But only 12% of that was allocated to NES– 3% was assessed on the girl’s father, and 85% on Cooper, who is likely judgment-proof. 

The NES portion of the verdict comes to 1.5 million, a significant sum. But my sources tell me that 1.5M is significantly less than NES’s insurer had offered before trial, so the defense side is not at all displeased with the verdict. (Nor with the hugely-significant appellate decision from February establishing that criminal conduct may be compared with negligence for purposes of the fault allocation.)

Here’s the article from the Logan newspaper. (And an earlier article during the trial.) Plaintiff’s counsel was Shaun Peck; defense counsel was Greg Sanders. The trial judge was Thomas Willmore.