Zalkin > Lopez Trial Court Documents

The “Lopez” case involved child sexual abuse by a serial child sexual predator within two local San Diego congregations of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The plaintiff, Jose Lopez, was a minor child whose family was active in the congregation at the time of the alleged abuse.

The Zalkin Law Firm filed this civil lawsuit in February of 2013 (Case No: 37-2012-00099849-CU-PO-CTL).

This page contains 16 sets of court documents from that case. An expanded explanation of “Terminating Sanctions” has been included after the document links for further clarification of an important element leading to the final outcome of the “Lopez” court case.



Terminating Sanctions

In 2013, the Zalkin Law Firm filed a lawsuit (civil action) in a San Diego court in behalf of a victim of child abuse. The Plaintiff was one of seven victims molested by Campos, one time Jehovah’s Witness Elder. The Defendants in the case were originally the Linda Vista Spanish Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses; Campos, the perpetrator, and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of NY, Inc.

In this case, Watchtower had repeatedly violated or ignored court orders, or opposed several discovery motions, or produced documents with unreasonable redactions, rebuffed informal attempts to obtain discovery, and rehashed the same arguments over and over even after they had been rejected by the Court.

Watchtower conceded that it was ordered to produce documents requested by Plaintiff, and that it did not do so. It sought to excuse its non-compliance by arguing that production was not required because Watchtower sought appellate review. Watchtower cites no case for this remarkable proposition, and of course, there is none. Imagine the legal gridlock that would be caused if no party had to comply with a discovery order until it had exhausted its appellate rights. The courts of appeal would be inundated with discovery writs, and the trial courts could not move cases.

At some point, the Court was justified in putting an end to WATCHTOWER’S WILLFUL FAILURES TO COMPLY and did so. Plaintiff asked for a motion for terminating sanctions which is a punishment for grossly improper litigation behavior that ends the offending party’s participation in the case, usually consisting of a default or dismissal.

Because terminating sanctions are a very harsh remedy they are only requested when the defendant or plaintiff shows persistent failure to comply with a court order to respond to discovery.

In this case, when Defendant, Watchtower, failed to respond or to submit to authorized methods of discovery, disobeyed a court order to provide discovery, and “failing to confer” – it was a misuse of the discovery process.

California Code of Civil Procedure § 2030.290(c) states, in relevant part, “If a party to whom interrogatories are directed fails to serve a timely response, the following rules apply: (c) …If a party then fails to obey an order compelling answers, the court may make those orders that are just, including the imposition of an issue sanction, an evidence sanction, or a terminating sanction.

Terminating sanctions are appropriate when a chronic pattern of delay or evasiveness by the defaulting party is egregious enough to warrant denial of a trial on the merits.  In this case the Court ruled that terminating sanctions were appropriate when the defendants “persistent failure to comply with the court’s discovery orders resulted in a discovery stay and continuance of the trial.”

The Plaintiff asked that Governing Body, Gerrit Losch, be produced for deposition and all documents regarding child abuse going back until 1977 also be produced.

On February 6, 2014, Watchtower asked this Court for a stay of both components of the January 2, 2014 order. When Watchtower and Losch separately filed Petitions for Writ of Mandate, both asked for an immediate stay. When Losch Petitioned the Supreme Court, he requested an emergency stay. None of these stays were granted, but Watchtower acted as though they were. As of March 31, 2014 through April 3, 2014, the standing order was that the materials and testimony must be provided. Watchtower refused. The Court was justified in putting an end to Watchtower’s attempts to delay this case and deprive Plaintiff of important evidence.

In short, Watchtower made no legitimate effort to gather the responsive documents. Watchtower had not offered to provide Plaintiff with a partial production while the rest are gathered.

The following information was taken from Court Documents which have been provided on this website.

Documents relating to childhood sexual abuse:

Complaints of molestation known to ‘Watchtower prior to 1986 are relevant to establishing the parameters of the duty of care owed by Watchtower. See Doe v. U.S. Swimming, Inc. (plaintiff arguing “logically, the higher incidence of prior wrongful conduct . . . the more care that should be devoted to the problem” by the defendant.) Such evidence is necessary to combat the expert Watchtower paid to opine that it had little knowledge about sexual abuse prior to 1986, and in light of that low amount of knowledge, offered superlative educational programs. The information is also necessary to defeat ‘Watchtower’s putative statute of limitations defense. A defendant’s “knowledge must then be evaluated by the standard of either a reasonable person of ordinary intelligence, or of a person who has ‘superior,’ or specialized knowledge that would pertain to his evaluation of the facts he has acquired.”)

Complaints of sexual abuse known to Watchtower before and after 1986 are vital to establishing whether either Defendant is liable for punitive damages by acting with malice or ratifying the abuse (failure to discharge agent despite knowledge of unfitness may make principle liable in punitive damages through ratification.) Such evidence is also necessary to establish the amount of a punitive damage award. See Johnson v. Ford Motor Co. (2005) 35 CaI.4th II9I, I2OI (degree of reprehensibility of defendant’s conduct is an important factor in considering the measure of punitive damages);

Complaints of childhood sexual abuse known to Watchtower after 1986 are relevant to Plaintiff s ratification claim. Such complaints help explain the development and deficiencies of the corporate policies that were utilized to ratify the abuse of Plaintiff. Post 1986 complaints give context to Watchtower’s actions after that date regarding Campos, and are also relevant in assessing the quality of Defendants’ knowing acceptance of Campos’ actions. Documents showing Watchtower’s tendency of protecting child molesters after 1986 tends to prove it did so with Campos.

Testimony of Gerrit Losch

Losch has been a member of the Governing Body since 1994. The Governing Body reviews and approves policy within the organization. Evidence from Losch regarding the formulation and approval of policy regarding molestation, why the policies were created or altered, and the Governing Body’s knowledge of the likelihood that such policies would result in the protection of molesters in the organization is relevant to Plaintiff s ratification theory. Also, as a managing agent of Watchtower, Losch’s actions may form the basis of an award of punitive damages against Defendant. Cal. Civ. Code $ 3294(b). Evidence of Losch’s knowledge of the prevalence of molestation in the organization, his role in formulating policy, and his knowledge of the tendency of those policies to protect molesters at the expense of children, are necessary to determining watchtower’s liability for, and the measure of, punitive damages.

CONCLUSION – For the foregoing reasons, this Court should grant Plaintiff’s motion and award terminating and monetary sanctions.

Respectfully Submitted, Dated: April 25, 2014 – Zalkin Law Firm