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$21 Million awarded in domestic violence case

June 29, 2016

Domestic violence victim Jennifer Kershaw received an award of more than $21 million in damages from a jury in Franklin County, Ohio. According to Michael King, attorney for the plaintiff, the case sends abusers a strong message that they will be held accountable for their actions and that these crimes will not be tolerated.

Kershaw, who went by her married name of Jennifer Bailey, suffered regular abuse from her husband. When the first-grade teacher visited the emergency room with multiple cuts and bruises, a swollen eye and a broken cheekbone, medical personnel contacted the authorities. Despite her refusal to press charges, the courts convicted Jerry Bailey of a misdemeanor. He spent two days in jail, paid a $100 fine and was placed on probation for two years. Kershaw didn’t think that the sentence was strong enough and reasoned that if she had she been assaulted by a stranger, he would have received more stringent sanctions. Kershaw decided Bailey, and others like him, should be held responsible for their behavior and suffer real consequences.

Kershaw sued her abusive, now ex-husband in civil court for assault and battery and intentional infliction of severe emotional distress. When the judge announced the $1.58 million compensatory damage award, Kershaw, overwhelmed with emotion, missed the rest of the judge’s statement. After the initial shock, Kershaw realized that she had also been awarded $20 million for punitive damages.

Because of Ohio laws limiting the amount of money that can be given for non-economic and punitive damages, Kershaw’s actual award will come to about $3.5 million, an amount that King believes is too low when compared with the original award.

Bailey did not appear in court and did not have an attorney representing him during the civil trial.

The landmark represents one of the first in Ohio for a favorable ruling for the domestic violence victim against an abusive spouse. Kershaw, who felt like her husband had controlled her life, filed the lawsuit as a means of empowerment for herself and other domestic violence victims. Although the legal battle was “gut-wrenching” and brought back memories Kershaw had tried to forget, she can move forward with the healing process, knowing the difference that she has made in the lives of many abused women.

Despite the drastic reduction in the financial compensation to the victim, the courts sent a strong message regarding civil liability in a domestic violence case. Larry Bellomo is an Orange County attorney with over three decades of experience practicing Family and Bankruptcy Law.