Dental Assistant Awarded Damages in Sexual Harassment Suit

In Seubert v. Deluty, a Nassau County judge awarded, after an inquest following defendant’s default, damages to compensate plaintiff for sexual harassment she suffered while employed as a part-time dental assistant and receptionist for defendant dentist. It also set aside a transfer of property from defendant dentist to his wife as a fraudulent conveyance.

Plaintiff alleged that

defendant engaged in conduct where he sexually harassed the plaintiff by touching her inappropriately over her vehement objections with the knowledge the plaintiff was seeking therapy because the plaintiff did not like being touched, and mocking her for not wanting to be touched for approximately nineteen months of her employment.

The court awarded plaintiff lost wages for the time it took plaintiff to find subsequent employment, interest, out-of-pocket expenses for psychological treatment, costs, disbursements, reasonable attorney fees, emotional distress damages, and punitive damages.

Specifically, it awarded plaintiff $85,000 in emotional distress damages and $15,000 in punitive damages.

The court cited the following evidence supporting the emotional distress award:

[P]laintiff testified she suffered several changes to her emotional state from Dr. Deluty’s sexual harassment of her.  Those changes comprised an impact on her romantic life, including her general interactions with men and relationships with other employers and lost friends.  The plaintiff testified she became depressed, and sought psychological treatment from Shane Gregory Owens, Ph.D., a New York State licensed psychologist on a weekly basis from October 29, 2007 through June 2009.  The plaintiff testified she stopped treatment because it became too expensive, and the process of discussing the incidents with Dr. Deluty were very painful.

The plaintiff’s parents testified the plaintiff lived with them, and worked with Dr. Deluty.  They each testified their daughter was an outgoing person with many friends before she worked for Dr. Deluty.  They each testified [as to] their daughter’s negative personality changes while she   worked for the doctor which continued after she left hat employment.

Dr. Owens examined the plaintiff, and found the plaintiff sustained adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions. Dr. Owens observed the plaintiff exhibited anxiety, sadness and anger over the incidents [that] involved Dr. Deluty. Dr. Owens put the plaintiff through cognitive behavior therapy and rational emotional therapy to change the symptoms by changing the plaintiff’s behavior and thoughts that lead to her emotions. Dr. Owens noted the plaintiff’s symptoms improved for a time, but by the conclusion of the treatment those symptoms returned, and the plaintiff stopped treatment because it became very difficult for her.

The court held that plaintiff met the burden of showing that she sustained damages for severe emotional distress from the defendant’s actions, and that plaintiff was entitled to $85,000 plus interest “to compensate her for the mental anguish, emotional distress, humiliation and embarrassment which the defendant caused her … accruing from January 1, 2010”.

The court also held that plaintiff was entitled to punitive damages of $15,000 “because of the defendant’s willful violation by his conduct done with knowledge he violated the law of the City of New York.”

Finally, the court set aside (as a fraudulent conveyance) a transfer by quitclaim deed of real estate from defendant dentist to his wife. It found that that the transfer was not made for fair consideration, and cited the fact that defendant dentist admitted four months after the transfer that he was then insolvent to satisfy any judgment in the case.

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