$2.3M to victims in rehab sex abuse suit
JUNE 27 2014
SAN DIEGO — A San Diego jury awarded nearly $2.3 million this week to two boys who were sexually abused by a volunteer at a National City rehabilitation clinic.
Wednesday’s verdict ended a 15-day trial against Pacific Health System, which operates an outpatient facility treating substance abuse and mental illness.
The boys were 13 when they were victimized by Robert Poizner, a volunteer and mentor who was tasked with driving the patients to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Instead, he took them to his apartment, molesting them and providing them with drugs for a roughly yearlong period, according to the 2011 complaint.
The abuse also occurred during overnight hotel and apartment stays, the suit says.
Poizner, 44, was convicted of 24 counts of sex abuse against children. He is serving a sentence of 82 years to life in prison.
The lawsuit alleges that Pacific Health put Poizner in a position of power despite his own history of substance abuse and previous criminal convictions. The victims were particularly vulnerable, the lawsuit says, because the boys suffered from psychological problems along with substance abuse.
The jury deliberated for two and a half days before reaching a $6.5 million verdict, but also found that Poizner and, to a much lesser degree, one of the boys’ parents shared some of the responsibility for the conduct, thus reducing the amount Pacific Health owed. The jury found that Pacific Health owed one boy $975,000 in damages and the other $1.3 million.
“We are hoping outcomes with civil remedies for the victims force these facilities to do extensive background checks and more efficient supervision on their volunteers,” the boys’ attorney, Stephen Estey, said in a statement.
Pacific Health’s attorney, Douglas Guy, said Friday that it was premature to comment on the verdict.