Thursday, February 28, 2002
C.A. Upholds Nonsuit in Harassment Action Against Local Attorney
Woman Who Accused Dan Stormer of Fondling Her Was ‘Outrageous’ in Defying Testing Order, Turner Says
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge properly granted a nonsuit in a malpractice/sexual harassment suit against a well-known local civil rights lawyer, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Div. Five, in an unpublished opinion by Presiding Justice Paul A. Turner, also affirmed an award of more than $200,000 in attorney fees to attorney Dan Stormer and his firm, Hadsell & Stormer, under the attorney-fees provision in the retainer agreement.
The plaintiff, Claire Ragge, hired Hadsell and his firm to represent her in a sexual harassment suit against her ex-employer, Universal Studios, and for advice in connection with a potential medical malpractice claim. The Universal suit settled in July 1996, and the firm’s representation in connection with the medical malpractice matter ended the following January.
In her complaint, Ragge claimed that Stormer had fondled her on several occasions while he was representing her. She tried to get him to stop, she alleged, but submitted after he said that he would not continue to represent her if she did not submit.
She further alleged that in February 1997, Stormer promised to pay her for therapy that she required as a result of his advances. But that when she met with him to receive the money, Ragge claimed, Stormer didn’t have it, grabbed her writs, and scuffled with her, leaving her bruised.
By stipulation, Ragge was examined by a psychologist, who administered certain psychological tests. Because Ragge left many questions unanswered, and the psychologist said the test could not be validly scored as a result, the defense moved to exclude evidence of psychological damage.
Judge James Albracht offered Ragge the opportunity to comply with the stipulated order for psychological testing by retaking the tests during a break in the trial. But the defense again sought to exclude the evidence after Ragge was seen in possession of the test papers at the courthouse, contrary to the psychologist’s express instructions that the tests were to be taken in her office.
Albracht, rejecting the plaintiff’s claim that she believed she was under instructions to bring the test papers to court and relying on the psychologist’s testimony that the removal of the papers had rendered the testing invalid, granted the defense motion. After Ragge’s lawyer, Joel Tamraz, indicated that he could not proceed because his case rested almost entirely on proof of psychological damage, Albracht granted a nonsuit.
Turner, writing for the Court of Appeal, said Albracht acted within his discretion. The trial judge, he said, acted judiciously in response to the plaintiff’s “outrageous” behavior in defying the order that her own counsel had stipulated to.
The case is Ragge v. Hadsell & Stormer, B139936.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company