Conti Appeal Hearing-Summary of Watchtower’s Complaint of Errors with Plaintiff's Reply
The following statements were taken from the Introduction of Respondent’s Brief A136641 -Attorney Richard Simons' response for Plaintiff
Defendants argue that the affirmative duty imposed by the trial court impinges on their religious freedom. However, it is well established that a religious organization cannot insulate itself from liability by designating legally-proscribed conduct as “religious belief.” ---
First, they claim error in the trial court’s refusal to instruct the jury on the requirements of California’s mandatory child abuse reporting statute in effect in 1993. The claimed error is actually evidentiary, not instructional, because defendants contend the refused instruction was necessary to “correct” expert testimony concerning the mandatory reporting statute.
Watchtower invited this error by eliciting the allegedly improper testimony and the Congregation waived it by failing to object to the testimony. In any event, mandatory reporting responsibilities were not part of the case and thus the trial court properly instructed the jury not to consider the statute or the expert’s testimony concerning it in deciding defendant’s liability.
Defendants claim error in the court’s decision to exclude plaintiff’s parents and law enforcement agencies from the special verdict form as potential tortfeasors. However, the evidence was insufficient to raise a prima facie case of liability as to any of these nonparties.
Finally, Watchtower attacks the punitive damage award. First, it contends that the evidence was insufficient to establish malice. Substantial evidence, however, established that Watchtower consciously disregarded the risk that Kendrick, a known child molester, posed to children of the Congregation, including plaintiff. Although Watchtower knew child molesters are difficult to identify and often reoffend, it nevertheless chose to keep secret from Congregation members the fact that Kendrick had abused a child in order to protect itself from civil liability. Furthermore, it actually assigned plaintiff to perform field service with Kendrick.
Second, Watchtower contends the punitive damages were unconstitutionally excessive. The jury awarded $7,000,000 in compensatory damages and $21,000,001 in punitive damages, the latter being remitted by the judge to $8,610,000. The punitive damages were firmly supported by the reprehensibility of Watchtower’s conduct. They were not based on evidence of harm to others because no such evidence was admitted; furthermore, the jury was instructed not to consider any such harm in assessing punitive damages.
Finally, the remitted amount was only three times the “base level” of compensatory damages as found by the judge (7 AA 1938)—well within constitutional limits.
Defendants fail to demonstrate any error, much less prejudicial error. Their selective and highly inaccurate reporting of the facts along, with their failure to cite relevant and controlling authority, are tacit admissions that the appeal is without merit. The judgment must be affirmed.
The following list contains the title of each of five sections as seen in the Respondent’s Brief that were then argued therein.
DEFENDANTS’ SPECIAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH PLAINTIFF AND KENDRICK IMPOSED A DUTY TO PROTECT PLAINTIFF; IN ANY EVENT, THEY COMMITTED ACTUAL MISFEASANCE BY ASSIGNING HER TO FIELD SERVICE WITH KENDRICK.
IMPOSING A DUTY TO WARN DOES NOT VIOLATE THE CONSTITUTION.
THE INSTRUCTIONS ON DUTY TO WARN, THE MANDATORY REPORTING STATUTE, AND ALLOCATION OF FAULT TO OTHERS WERE NOT PREJUDICIALLY ERRONEOUS.
THERE IS NO EVIDENTIARY OR CONSTITUTIONAL BASIS TO VACATE OR FURTHER REDUCE THE PUNITIVE DAMAGE AWARD.
DEFENDANTS’ FAILURE TO FOLLOW THE RULES OF COURT PREJUDICES THEIR APPEAL.