Teenage boys molested by AA sponsor; $10,000 CCP 998 offer. $6.5 million verdict. San Diego County.


Teenage boys with history of substance and sexual abuse are sent to after-school program, later molested by AA sponsor they met at the program.

The Case

  • Case Name: Doe, et al. vs. Pacific Health Systems, LP, et al.
  • Court and Case Number: San Diego Superior Court / 37-2011-00092552-CU-PO-CTL
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, June 25, 2014
  • Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, June 08, 2011
  • Type of Case: Sexual Abuse
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Richard E.L. Strauss
  • Plaintiffs:
    Brandon Doe and Austin Doe, age 13
  • Defendants:
    Pacific Health Systems, L.P.
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $6,500,000
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    $3,250,000 to Brandon Doe and $3,250,000 to Austin Doe.

  • Economic Damages:


  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $3,250,000 to Brandon Doe and $3,250,000 to Austin Doe.

  • Punitive Damages:


  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 15 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2 1/2 days
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Motion for award of prejudgment interest

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
    Estey & Bomberger, LLP by Stephen J. Estey, San Diego (for Austin Doe).
    James Matthew Brown, San Diego (for Brandon Doe).
  • Attorney for the Defendant:
    Gates, O'Doherty, Gonter & Guy, LLP by Doug Guy and Dayna Chmelka, San Diego.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Experts:
    Calvin Colarusso, M.D., psychiatry, La Jolla.
  • Defendant's Medical Experts:
    Mark Kalish, M.D., psychiatry, San Diego.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    The two plaintiffs were 13-year-old boys with a troubled history of sex abuse and substance abuse before the instant incidents. Because of the substance abuse, their parents put them in a private after-school outpatient program run by defendant Pacific Health System (PHS). An unpaid volunteer at the program, who became the boys' AA sponsor, groomed the boys at the program’s meetings and ultimately molested both of them off the premises. The volunteer-perpetrator was criminally convicted in 2011 of 23 counts of sexual abuse and other related charges. Austin was at PHS from September 2009 to October 2009. Brandon from May 2009 to January 2010. 

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That Pacific Health Systems (PHS), the institutional provider of the outpatient program, negligently failed to do a background check and negligently ignored the expressed concerns of the boys' parents about the amount of time the volunteer-perpetrator was spending with their children.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant argued they had no duty to conduct a background check as the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) sponsor was not associated with their company or program. They also said it was up to the parents to decide who was a proper AA sponsor for their kids. Defense argued a lack of notice and no complaints from parents.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Severe emotional distress.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $250,000 per plaintiff ($500,000 total)
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $5,000 per plaintiff ($10,000 total)