After a trial in which a victim of sexual assault by Mike Morse lost her case, the victim appealed the ruling. The Appeals Court upheld all sexual assault claims against Morse, but the trial judge decided the arbitration agreement violated these claims. Morse is now charged with misdemeanor sexual battery for grabbing a paralegal’s breasts, an administrative assistant’s breasts, and the breast of a receptionist.
The Appeals Court affirmed that it found that there was no evidence that the arbitration agreement was a reasonable, fair, or justifiable reason to not have a jury decide the case. The Appeals Court ruled that the parties’ arbitration agreements regarding monetary awards were void because they failed to comply with California Civil Code Section 842.
According to the Appeals Court’s decision, Morse had two different agreements with the first one stating that he would not be liable to the victim if the case went to trial. The second agreement stated that if the case did go to trial, Morse would have to reimburse the victim for his legal fees.
The Appeals Court found that the statute of limitations on these agreements expired before the second one, which meant that there was no reason for Morse to have to reimburse the victim for his legal fees if he lost. Additionally, the second agreement provided for a fixed monetary award that never changed after it was entered into. This fixed award made it impossible for Morse to make the plaintiff’s case stick and he could not be seen as a reasonable, fair, or justifiable reason to not have a jury decide the case.
While we understand that many victims are concerned about their rights being violated in a case involving an alleged perpetrator, we disagree with the court’s decision to uphold the verdict against Michael Morse. Because of this, we believe that the Victim’s Counsel (the person who represented the victim in this matter) should have been notified of the Arbitration Agreement, which would have allowed them to argue that the second agreement violated the statute of limitations, while still allowing the case to move forward with a jury.
In our opinion, the Victim’s Counsel should have been informed that the second agreement involved an award that was not subject to change, and that the victim had the right to have a jury decide the outcome of the case. For these reasons, we do not agree with the court’s denial of the victim’s claim.