An Inclusive Litany

3/25/02

Marta Sanchez, a first-year student at the University of Virginia School of Law, filed a $35,000 lawsuit against professor Kenneth Abraham for assault and battery. Sanchez's complaint alleges that while teaching a class "covering an area of torts law regarding offensive touching," Professor Abraham demonstrated a point by touching her shoulder "in a caressing manner" without her consent. Sanchez, a prior victim of rape and sexual abuse in her native Panama, said the incident put her "in reasonable fear of physical injury," and resulted in emotional stress, upset stomach, and migranes. Abraham characterized the touch as a "tap."

"She brought a lot of baggage with her," said Steven Rosenfield, Sanchez's lawyer. "She had been terrorized and victimized as a child, and although we don't hold Abraham responsible for what happened to her as a child, what he did is exacerbate and bring to the surface once again her vulnerability to men with authority and power." The complaint thus relies on the same legal principle that Professor Abraham was teaching at the time. According to the "egg-shell skull rule," if a court decides that a wrongful act has occurred, the defendant is responsible for the damage caused by the act, even if the damage is far greater than normally expected.

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