In April 2018, the city of Boulder sued 2 energy giants, ExxonMobil and Suncor Energy, on the grounds that the city was entitled to damages caused by climate change. The city government, facing an increased flooding risk and decades of future drought, asked these companies for $157 million so that Boulder could adapt to the challenges posed by our shifting climate. Since then, more than 9 cities and counties throughout the nation have filed similar lawsuits, demanding accountability for the reckless behavior of global oil companies, and claiming it actively harms the people in their limits.
While largely viewed by the media as a stunt, the influx of such cases reflects a larger truth about the American legal system. Many passionate people are now using the civil courtroom to debate ideas of human rights and justice, especially when it becomes impossible to achieve in the criminal process. After 60 combined years of experience fighting for human rights in the civil courtroom, our Boulder personal injury lawyers here at Klein Frank, P.C. know well how the state courtroom can be used as a tool to seek justice. For those blocked in the criminal system, the civil court allows them to raise awareness about important issues, and to receive damages for their losses.
Below, we discuss 5 instances where a civil suit may offer a faster route to justice than traditional criminal proceedings:
- Sexual assault: Criminal trials have a notoriously high burden of proof for sexual assault victims, and this prohibits the vast majority of rape and sexual assault cases from ever appearing before a judge or jury. Victims also face intimidation and skepticism throughout the criminal process, including from the police. But in one 2016 case, a young victim was able to recover damages totaling $150,000 from her alleged attacker, baseball player Alfredo Simón, after the evidence was deemed “insufficient” by criminal prosecutors. She was not the first, nor will she be the last: over the last few decades, it has become increasingly commonplace for victims to file civil suits for sexual assault, especially if the criminal proceeding is halted.
- Human trafficking: It’s estimated that over 25 million people worldwide are trapped in sexual slavery or forced labor. Tragically, very few of those who perpetuate the horrific injustice of human trafficking are ever held accountable. But in these instances as well, civil suits have proved to be effective tools for justice, and nearly 150 civil cases alleging human trafficking violations asking for millions in damages were filed from 2003 to 2016.
- Domestic violence: Much like sexual assault victims, those who have suffered from domestic violence face tremendous obstacles before their case is heard in court – from financial concerns to the high burden of proof placed upon them. Many victims have won financial and psychological freedom through successful civil cases against their abusers.
- Wrongful death: Losing a loved one, whether through violence or negligence, can never be truly rectified. But if your loved one’s death was preventable, you may have recourse to seek justice in the civil courtroom, even if there is no criminal charge brought against the guilty party. Although pharmaceutical companies and other groups may never be held fully accountable for their negligence, you may be able to recover your losses.
- Harassment or discrimination: Some of the most established laws of the land today stemmed from civil suits of yesterday. Title IX, which was enacted in 1972 and demands that all students have equal access to financial and school resources in the educational system, was only enacted by Congress after thousands of civil cases were filed to allege discrimination in college sports.
While the world still waits on the outcome of the Boulder lawsuit, it’s safe to say that the civil court battles are only beginning for climate change, as well as other important social justice issues. If you’ve been affected by any of the instances described here, contact our team of nationally recognized personal injury lawyers at Klein Frank, P.C. We’ve dedicated our careers to the principles of social responsibility, and it’s our goal to help our clients overcome obstacles to justice.Contact us for a free consultation on your civil suit today. We promise to provide relentless advocacy for your case.