Sexual Assault in Oklahoma is an offense where a person engages a victim in unwanted sexual touching. This guide to Sexual Assault Procedures in Oklahoma is a summary of how a sexual assault victim’s legal rights can be asserted in order to seek relief and damages for their sexual assault.
Hire an Experienced Sexual Assault Attorney
A victim of sexual assault should contact an experienced sexual assault plaintiff attorney as soon as possible after an assault for an explanation of the lengthy process of justice in a sexual assault case. After retaining an experienced sexual assault attorney, your lawyer will investigate and build your sexual assault plaintiff’s case. Additionally, the right sexual assault attorney will ensure you understand your legal options at every step in the process.
Sexual Assault: Demand Letters
Once the initial investigation is complete, your sexual assault lawyer will compile the evidence, meet with you, and prepare a sexual assault demand letter to the perpetrator and/or your employer, if involved. Demand letters give you an opportunity to settle your case without the legal battle described below. However, if a settlement is reached before a sexual assault lawsuit is filed, you will typically be required to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) or Confidentiality Agreement that has serious consequences to you, if you violate the agreement.
Basically, if you receive damages in a sexual assault settlement without having to file a lawsuit; the perpetrator will be entitled to you not disclosing the assault to anyone else. This is a very complex issue and it is important to retain experienced counsel to help you evaluate all the pros and cons of this option.
Sexual Assault: File EEOC Complaint
If your sexual assault occurred in the workplace or your employer or fellow employee committed some form of tort against you (See next section for common torts), your sexual assault attorney will help you file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It is important to note, that you can initiate this process without an attorney; however, like most legal issues, it is best to have competent counsel’s assistance.
The EEOC is a federal agency which enforces federal laws regarding discrimination of harassment in the workplace. The complaint to the EEOC must be filed within 180 DAYS of the last act of sexual assault or workplace misconduct. You can file an EEOC complaint at the following website:
If the complaint is more than 180 days after the “last discriminatory event” or last related employer/employee tort related to your sexual assault, your claim can be time barred and denied. Once the sexual assault complaint is filed with the EEOC, they will conduct their own investigation into the charges and reach out to the defendant or their attorney to investigate. If the EEOC finds evidence of sexual assault, they will file a sexual assault lawsuit or will provide your sexual assault attorney a Right to Sue Letter.
If the lawsuit is solely against an individual, filing a complaint with the EEOC is not necessary and a complaint will be filed with the federal or Oklahoma state district court (ie. Cleveland County, Canadian County, Tulsa County, Oklahoma County, or the County the sexual assault took place). Federal suits for sexual assault are brought if there is a federal party, federal question, or federal issue. This includes Civil Rights Act Title VII discrimination claims. An experienced sexual assault plaintiff attorney will be able to explain your options and identify the right venue (Court) to seek damages for your sexual assault.
Sexual Assault Case: File Lawsuit / Complaint
Your sexual assault attorney will draft a complaint or petition laying out all the facts and legal theories of your case, if a settlement cannot or will not be reached before filing your sexual assault case. You should review the sexual assault petition or complaint with your attorney and ensure all the facts to support your complaint are stated.
As stated above, if your sexual assault was committed by a co-worker, you may be entitled to damages against your employer, in addition to the perpetrator of your sexual assault. Claims against an employer for sexual assault include, but are not limited to the following:
- Retaliation: punishment by your employer or supervisor for engaging in legal activity, i.e. reporting being the victim of sexual assault;
- Wrongful Termination: employer fired you or laid you off for an illegal reason, i.e. reporting being the victim of sexual assault;
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED): trauma or anguish allowed to occur by your employer;
- Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED) failure to prevent or respond to the sexual assault or trauma;
- Intentional Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage: intentional and wrongful acts by your employer to harm your economic interests;
- Negligent Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage: negligently acts by your employer or fellow employee that results in harm your economic interests or relationships.
Sexual Assault Case: Initial Litigation
After your sexual assault attorney files your complaint, the defendant and/or your employer will file an “answer,” which is their response to each and every allegation. The defendant or employer at this time may also move to dismiss your sexual assault case. Your Oklahoma sexual assault attorney should file a response or objection to the answer/motion to dismiss. Once everyone’s pleadings have been filed, the judge will decide to allow your case to proceed or dismiss your sexual assault case. A Scheduling Order, will be put into place, if the judge allows your case to proceed beyond the motion to dismiss stage.
Sexual Assault Case: Scheduling Order
If the judge determines that the case will proceed, the judge will issue a Scheduling Order, which consists of timelines for each party to follow up to jury trial. The Scheduling Order will cover discovery, depositions, exchange of witnesses and exhibits, dispositive motions, motion for summary judgment, date to mediate by, and dates to schedule trial.
Sexual Assault Case: Discovery
Discovery is the process in a civil case, including a sexual assault lawsuit, where the parties exchange discovery requests to learn about the other parties’ claims, defenses, and evidence. An experienced sexual assault attorney will use discovery to insulate your case and expose weaknesses in the defendant’s case. The goal of discovery is to allow both sides to have a fair understanding of each side (which prevents trial by ambush) and to facilitate cases being settled. However, a settlement will be greatly improved, if your attorney uses discovery to the fullest!
Discovery in Sexual Assault Cases
Discovery requests are a big part of building your sexual assault case. Under Oklahoma and federal law, discovery can be taken in the form of depositions, interrogatories, requests for production, and admissions. An experienced sexual assault attorney will use this powerful tool in preparation for defending your case in jury trial. The following is an explanation of each type of discovery request:
Interrogatories: written questions, in which a question is formally put to one party in a case by the other party and must be answered by the other party under oath.
Requests for Production: are requests for evidence or materials relevant to the case. This can include time sheets, work logs, text messages before and after the alleged sexual assault and a variety of other evidence. Requests for Production can build or hurt your sexual assault case.
Admissions: A factual question asking the other party to admit or deny an important fact in the case. For example, a sexual assault plaintiff attorney may request an admission that the defendant was a supervisor of the plaintiff, or that the supervisor had been in one-on-one settings with the sexual assault plaintiff. It is important to seek the right Admissions to insulate your case and avoid denials at a later time.
If a plaintiff sues many defendants, each defendant is entitled to present separate discovery requests, which can be an scary process of responding to discovery. You, through your attorney, are obligated to respond to discovery requests within 30 days, regardless of other issues your attorney is facing or cases he or she is working on. This is a very important reason to hire an experienced sexual assault plaintiff attorney that has the organization to handle multiple cases at varying stages of litigation at one time.
Depositions in Sexual Assault Cases
Depositions are interviews under oath, where an attorney in the case asks a party or witness questions under oath, before trial. It is important that your attorney is experienced in taking and defending clients at deposition. How you prepare for and present your testimony at deposition plays a key role in defending your sexual assault claims at trial or mediation.
Depositions have two purposes: To identify what a witness knows or would present at trial and to preserve that witness’ testimony. Again, discovery is a process to allow every party to a case to identify the issues and not be ambushed or surprised at trial. Depositions are intended to give the parties the opportunity to learn all the facts and testimony in the case before trial, so that no one is surprised at trial. An experienced sexual assault attorney will ensure that the testimony at each deposition has the maximum positive impact in your case.
Sexual Assault Case: Motion for Summary Judgment
Once discovery is complete in your sexual assault case, the defendant(s), i.e. the perpetrator / your employer, if applicable, will file a Motion for Summary Judgement (MSJ), which is a request for the court to rule the other party has no case, because there are no material questions of facts at issue. The party making the motion is claiming that either the case should not go before a jury at all, or a jury could only rule in favor of the moving party. The United States Supreme Court held the following as it related to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, which covers Motions for Summary Judgment, in Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 447 U.S. 242, 243-244 (1986):
“Summary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is “genuine,” that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. At the summary judgment stage, the trial judge’s function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.”
The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals said it well in Spirgis v. Circle K Stores, Inc., 1987 OK CIV APP 45, ¶13, 743 P.2d 682 (Okla. Civ. App. 1987) if
“reasonable men in the exercise of fair and impartial judgment might reach different conclusions upon consideration of same, summary judgment must be denied.”
It is very important that your chosen sexual assault attorney has experience defending cases at the Summary Judgment stage and is a good legal writer. The judge over your case will decide, if a material question or fact remains that a jury should be allowed to decide or not. Your case will be dismissed and you will not recover any damages, if the motion is granted against your case.
Sexual Assault Case: Mediation, Arbitration, Trial
If the sexual assault case survives the defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, there should be no barriers to take case to trial. However, typically a judge will require parties to first go through a mediation or arbitration process. Mediation and arbitration usually consist of a third-party attorney evaluating the case and helping the parties reach a settlement to avoid trial.
Most sexual assault mediators or arbitrators will have trial experience and can speak to potential damages or outcomes in a sexual assault trial. Many cases settle at or before this step, which is why it is crucial to your case that a plaintiff has hired a FIERCE ADVOCATE; prepared at every step. An experienced sexual assault attorney can help make the best decision on whether to settle or move on to trial.
Sexual Assault Case: Jury Trial
If the parties do not meet a settlement in mediation or arbitration, the case continues to a jury trial. This is when both sides present their case, their story, and try to convince the jury their side should prevail.
The burden of proof in an Oklahoma sexual assault case is preponderance of the evidence, which means it is more probable than not, that the sexual assault or employment related offense took place. If the jury finds the sexual assault occurred, the other side will be held accountable for their actions and you will receive damages to compensate for your injuries.
No amount of damages can ever cover the pain, anguish, and trauma of a sexual assault. However, our legal system has this process in place to try and address the civil wrong, damages, in your sexual assault.
Civil procedure is complex and many details exist that cannot be explained in this brief outline. This is why it is so important to hire an experienced Oklahoma sexual assault attorney. Whether you decide to contact us or not, it is our hope this summary gives you an overview of the Process in a Sexual Assault Case in Oklahoma.
Contact – Cannon & Associates: Oklahoma Sexual Assault Plaintiff Advocates
Experience matters when you or a loved one has been injured or sexually assaulted by another person. It is important to know the Oklahoma sexual assault personal injury lawyer you hire is dedicated to your cause and versed in all aspects of sexual assault and sexual harassment personal injury law in Oklahoma. Cannon & Associates is dedicated to Fierce Advocacy for victims and will fight for you. Founder John Cannon has been recognized as a Super Lawyer and Top 40 under 40. Contact Cannon & Associates to protect your rights and fight for compensation in your sexual assault or sexual harassment personal injury case in Oklahoma. Complete the CONTACT FORM ON THIS PAGE NOW or CALL at 1(405) 906-4051 for a free confidential case evaluation.