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ARTICLE ID 40660

$________ INCLUDING $1.6 MILLION IN PUNITIVE DAMAGES - SEXUAL MISCONDUCT BY SPIRITUAL LEADER - OTHER COMPLAINTS OF SEXUAL MISCONDUCT ALLEGEDLY IGNORED BY EMPLOYER - INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS.

U.S. District Court, Middle District of Pa.

The plaintiff in this action, a 19-year-old female at the time in question, alleged sexual abuse by a former spiritual leader popular known as the Swami Rama. The Swami Rama’s employer at the time, The Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science & Philosophy of the U.S.A., "the Institute," was also named as a defendant in the case. The plaintiff claimed that as the Swami Rama’s employer, The Institute knew of the Swami’s sexual misconduct, failed to take corrective action and disregarded other complaints of his misbehavior. The Swami Rama himself was also named as a defendant in the case. However, he died in India some ten months before trial and was dismissed from the action. The case proceeded against the defendant Institute only. The defendant Institute neither admitted nor denied that the sexual activity alleged by the plaintiff took place. However, the defendant maintained that if the sexual activity did occur, it was consensual. The defense also denied responsibility for the Swami Rama’s actions arguing that it had no knowledge of the incidents and that the Swami Rama was outside the course and scope of his employment at the time the incidents allegedly occurred.

The plaintiff testified that she engaged in sexual relations with the Swami Rama during a three or four month period at the Himalayan Institute in Honesdale when she was 19 years old and a member of the Institute. The plaintiff alleged that the Swami Rama abused his position as an Indian spiritual leader to secure the young woman’s consent to sexual relations. The plaintiff testified that at the time the incidents occurred, she believed that the spiritual leader knew what was best for her and that she should not disobey him. The plaintiff claimed that the Swami Rama intentionally inflicted emotional distress on her, acted maliciously and with a conscious disregard for the welfare of the plaintiff and was acting as an official of the Institute in so doing.

The plaintiff called seven women who testified to having sexual relationships with the Swami Rama. Several letters notifying the Institute of the Swami Rama’s alleged sexual misconduct were also introduced into evidence. The plaintiff contended that the defendant was aware of the Swami Rama’s inappropriate behavior and took no action to investigate or halt the sexual abuse of its followers.

The plaintiff’s psychiatrist testified that the Swami Rama was in a fiduciary relationship with the plaintiff and that he breached the responsibility imposed upon him by that relationship. The plaintiff’s second psychiatrist testified that the plaintiff suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome and that she sustained significant emotional injury as a result of the sexual abuse.

The defendant Institute denied any knowledge of sexual misconduct on the part of Swami Rama and asserted that he was a well respected leader. The defendant maintained that it did not find the letters written by the alleged victims of the Swami Rama to be credible and the Swami Rama had denied that any sexual misconduct occurred. The defense also contended that it was not responsible for the actions of the Swami Rama since he was acting outside the course and scope of his employment during the times at issue.

The jury found for the plaintiff in the amount of $________ which included $________ in compensatory damages and $1.6 million in punitive damages. The Court also added delay damages in the amount of $________ to the compensatory damages awarded by the jury.

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