Bringing a sexual abuse case to a civil trial is fraught with anxiety from the beginning, for obvious reasons, but for many victims, it’s more than facing their accuser. The expense of such a case may result in justice denied, through no fault of the plaintiff.
That is something that attorney Sam Dordulian understands well. Along with the pain and emotional struggle that comes with filing such a case, is the prohibitive cost.
“Many people don’t appreciate just how incredibly expensive it is to try cases in civil court,” he told Pasadena Now recently.
“When you’re a victim of a crime, you don’t have to pay anything,” he explained. “However, when you’re hiring your own lawyer to go after someone for money damages, unfortunately, it’s an expensive proposition.
“For a lot of our cases that ended up going to trial,” he continued, “the total costs, including all the expertise and all the court fees and deposition fees, can go up easily into six figures, anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000.”
But Dordulian’s office will front all of that money, he said.
“They don’t have to pay anything upfront. And I’ll take the risk. If I don’t win anything, I don’t ask for anything back.”
The practice is not uncommon with larger firms, but it represents a confidence on the part of the firm that it can win.
At the same time, AB 218, The Childhood Sexual Assault Damages Act, enacted in January of 2020, eliminates the civil statute of limitations for all cases involving childhood sexual assault, but the “window” is only open for the next three years.
As Dordulian explained further, “A lot of firms are too small and cannot afford to front a hundred thousand dollars per litigation that comes their way.
“We have, 40 to 50 regular civil litigation cases, and somewhere near 70 or 80 (civil) sex cases,” he continued. “So funding all of that is not an easy proposition. And most firms don’t have the resources to do that. We’re fortunate enough to be able to fund our own cases. And so we are able to put up the money as long as we feel confident in the case that we’re going to prevail, we’re more than happy to front some money and go to trial.”
AB 218 would increase the time limit for commencing an action for recovery of damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual assault to 22 years from the date the plaintiff attains the age of majority or within 5 years of the date the plaintiff discovers or reasonably should have discovered that the psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of majority was caused by sexual assault, whichever is later.
Dordulian, a former deputy district attorney in the LA County District Attorney’s office, added, “We have a team of lawyers. We have a separate unit and a separate department for sex crimes cases.”
The office also has two certified victim advocates, especially trained in handling cases involving victims of sexual assault. Retired LAPD sex crimes unit leader Detective Moses Castillo, with 30 years of experience under his belt, serves as the firm’s chief investigator.
Dordulian noted that he handles all the sex crimes cases personally.
He also stressed that his firm will handle a case from the beginning argument to its conclusion, where some law firms will simply hand off cases to other firms.
“A lot of people need to appreciate that,” Dordulian said. “There are a lot of (firms) who take on these personal injury cases, (but ) they’re too small to actually litigate cases. And they end up, when they can’t settle the case, sending it somewhere else.”
Stressed Dodulian, “We’re different. We will take on your case from the very beginning, and we’ll try to settle it. And if we don’t, we try it ourselves, there’s nobody who we pass the buck to.”
The firm also makes case meetings easy as well. Zoom conferences are readily available, he said.
“It makes it easy for our clients as well. We get to see them, it’s the next best thing to sitting across from each other. We get to see each other, we get to talk about the case and they get to meet us. And if it’s a good fit for all involved, we can sign them up. And we’ll start on their case right away.”
The Dordulian Law Group is at 550 N Brand Blvd Suite 1990. Glendale, CA 91203. (855) 804-9636. www.dlawgroup.com.