Patients Seek Justice Against Predatory Doctor
July 27, 2021 | Civil Rights
Former Long Island doctor Stuart Copperman thought he had avoided legal responsibility for multiple sexual assaults he committed between 1961 and 2000. Now, seventy-seven of his victims hope to have their day in court.
Copperman, who now lives in Florida, has not practiced medicine since these allegations came to light in a 2000 disciplinary hearing.
The victim’s attorney said the allegations were “more nauseating than I’ve ever seen before.”
During his decades of practice, Copperman repeatedly insisted that pelvic exams for girls as young as 8 were completely appropriate, even if they came in for a broken arm.
One survivor said he was very manipulative. “I think my mother was a little wooed over by his charm,” said one victim, who is currently 55 years old.
Another victim, who is currently 53, believes that child sexual abuse had lasting effects. “Once you are sexually abused as a child, you become an easy target for other sexual predators who can somehow read that vulnerability,” she said.
“The damage that comes from being sexually abused as a child, it gets into your body, it gets into your cells, it rewires your brain and changes who you are — and it can send out signals to other sexual predators.”
“I am not a pervert or a child molester,” Copperman insisted. “I’ve always lived my life so that someone could never say something bad about it,” he added. Several hospitals and clinics are named co-defendants in this action.
Child Sexual Assault Laws in New York
The two-year window these victims used to file their civil claims has now closed. But the other key provisions of the landmark Child Victims Act remain in effect. These provisions include:
- Extending the statute of limitations,
- Allowing victims to file claims until they are 55 years old,
- Removing the notice of claim requirement for actions against public entities,
- Mandating sexual abuse training for judges and judicial staff, and
- Authorizing the creation of permanent rules.
Partner Marie Napoli wrote Child Victims Act is a Step Toward Healing, published by The New York Law Journal, which outlines the Act more in depth.
The statute of limitations extension essentially codified the delayed discovery rule.
According to this doctrine, the statute of limitations clock does not start ticking until victims discover the full extent of their injuries and connect those injuries to the defendant’s conduct.
This rule has protected child sexual assault victims for many years. But the victim must prove this rule applies. The CVA automatically applies this rule.
The delayed discovery rule also comes into play in many dangerous drug claims. Frequently, people who take medicine like Zantac that’s tainted with NDMA do not know they are sick for several years or even several decades.
An overlooked part of the CVA is the elimination of the notice of claim requirement.
This provision gives cities, counties, states, and other government entities a chance to settle child sexual assault claims out of the public eye. So, while these victims might obtain the compensation they need, they may not obtain the justice they deserve.
Judicial training is significant as well. Many judges don’t understand how child sexual abuse affects victims beyond the physical abuse they suffered.
Finally, the provision for additional court rules mean that these changes become part of the permanent judicial landscape. All judges and attorneys will be fully aware of them and how they can protect child sexual abuse victims.
Evidence in Sexual Assault Matters
The CVA did not affect the burden of proof in these claims. These victims must still prove negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not.
So, while the law has opened the door for more victims, a New York personal injury attorney must know how to take advantage of this opportunity.
Essentially, the evidence in most sexual assault claims includes establishing the applicable standard of care, the victim’s own testimony, and a psychologist’s opinion as to how the assault affected the victim.
In premises liability claims, such as swimming pool drownings, falls, and child sexual assault, the owner usually has a duty of care to keep people reasonably safe.
That includes taking precautions against all foreseeable injuries. So, organizations should have rules which address areas like adults being along with children.
The victim’s own testimony is both compelling and controversial.
It’s compelling because something almost mystical happens when victims share their stories in court. It’s controversial because some jurors simply don’t always fully believe these victims.
That’s where a professional psychologist comes in. These professionals not only affirm the victim’s testimony.
They also explain the effects of sexual abuse. Once jurors fully understand these effects, they are usually willing to award maximum compensation.
Most of these claims settle out of court. Therefore, most victims usually don’t have to testify in open court.
Child sexual abuse victims are entitled to justice and compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC.
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