As reported in the Winona Daily News over the weekend, a jury in the Hennepin County District Court courtroom of Judge Bruce Peterson awarded a plaintiff represented by Robert J. Hajek $410,000 in compensatory damages, $1 million in punitive damages, against Donald Dean Budd, a former pastor at Winona’s McKinley United Methodist Church. Budd was represented by Timothy Waldeck.
Plaintiff had gone to her pastor to navigate the challenges of hard times after the death of a family member and, in return, was sexually exploited by him. But there is probably a huge chasm between plaintiff and ultimate recovery, notwithstanding the fact that the jury found she had a valid legal claim against Budd.
Pastors, in general, are not millionaires. A critical aspect of civil litigation that the general public often overlooks is that juries and courts award judgments for meritorious claims (at least we hope) but it does not pay them. It is not as if one wins a jury verdict and then turns in the verdict form, like some kind of voucher, to the cashier in the clerk’s office for the cash.
Fortunately for the plaintiff (and her lawyer, who, in all likelihood, took the case on a contingent fee agreement), she also got a verdict against the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (MACUMC) for about $164,000 of the compensatory damages.
(Actually, as reported by the Star Tribune, MACUMC was tagged for the $410,000 in compensatory damages but argues that it is only responsible for 40% of that, an issue that is apparently not conceded or finally decided at this time.)