The victim of a rape is just as crippled as the victim of a serious automobile accident and should be compensated accordingly, a federal judge here has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Flannery made that comparison in a strongly worded opinion issued this week. It upheld his earlier finding that two victims of a rape at the Diplomat motel should be paid nearly $265,000 each by the motel's owners.
Attorneys for the motel had argued that Flannery's original award of damages for the two women was "grossly excessive . . . a shocking sum of money which has the effect of punishing the defendants unjustifiably." They had asked him to lower the amount or grant a new trial.
Motel attorneys said jury awards in other rape civil cases here had been lower, and cited numerous examples in their attempt to have Flannery change his ruling.
But the judge said he had carefully reviewed the evidence and had taken into consideration the testimony of the two women and their "demeanor, appearance and manner of testifying."
The conclusion he reached, Flannery said, was "that these were two young women who had been permanently and psychologically crippled just as surely as any other victim of negligence who has suffered severe physical injury."
The two women were in their early 30s, and "will suffer emmotionally and pyschologically as a result of the traumatic events for the rest of their lives," the judge said.
"They will endure emotional pain and suffering and will be crippled psychologically for the rest of their lives just as surely as a victim of an automobile accident may be crippled and suffer permanent physical pain and suffering," Flannery said.
Flannery called the attacks at the Diplomat "particularly artrocious" because the women were beaten, robbed, raped and otherwise abused for about 90 minutes by two assailants. The women suffered minor physical injuries but each testified she had severe emotional problems as result of the incident.
The two women, both Brazilian citizens, had checked into the motel in Northeast Washington to visit their embassy here.
Their attorneys produced evidence at the trial that portrayed the Diplomat as a haven for pimps, prostitues and other persons likely to prey on unsuspecting tourists. They introduced evidence that 400 crimes had been reported to police from the motel the four years before the assault.
Flannery found that the motel's owners were negligent in not taking more stringent security precautions. He said the owners should have know that the high number of crimes there might lead to attacks on unsuspecting guests.
Flannery awarded each of the women $250,000 "to compensate for past and future pain and suffering," and an additional $13,000 to each woman for future psychiatric consultation.