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Civil Tort Suits and Economic Justice for Battered Women

NCJ Number
Victim Advocate Volume: 4 Issue: 3 Dated: Spring 2004 Pages: 3-9
Barbara J. Hart; Erika A. Sussman
Date Published
7 pages
Intended for tort lawyers who represent domestic-violence victims, this article provides guidelines for representation that address the client's financial needs and particular experiences, resulting in an adequate damage award that covers the client's losses and injuries due to the abuse.
The authors first identify and discuss the victims' costs due to domestic violence, which include the costs for preventing the recurrence of violence, for relocating, for independent living, and for other safety planning. They then note the economic inadequacies of typical legal remedies for domestic violence. Criminal sentences for the batterer, orders for restitution, payments from State crime victim compensation programs, the family law system, and civil remedies do not usually address or adequately cover the victim's financial costs stemming from the abuse. The article advises that lawyers who represent domestic-violence clients must be familiar with the types of behavior that constitute domestic violence, so as to develop litigation strategies that will gain awards for victim losses and the requirements for preventing future abuse. Abusive behaviors that should be addressed are the batterer's coercive control, economic abuse, and assaults during periods of separation. The suggested tort remedies for battered women focus on litigation against batterers and third-party defendants that may have some causative or collusive role in perpetuating the abuse. Practice strategies discussed are the litigation of the entire context of the abuse, the exploration of tort options, countering the effect of a statute of limitations, and the use of expert testimony. The article concludes with an explanation of an attorney's responsibility for placing tort claims within the costs and requirements for economic justice and safety measures for preventing future abuse. 56 notes


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