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Carpentier v. Tuthill

Supreme Court of Vermont

October 4, 2013

Doreen Carpentier
v.
Douglas Tuthill and Town of Hartford Town Clerk; Doreen Carpentier
v.
Douglas Tuthill

Page 1007

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1008

Editorial Note:

This Opinion is subject to motion for reargument or formal revision before publication. See V.R.A.P. 40

On Appeal from Superior Court, Windsor Unit, Civil Division. Theresa S. DiMauro, J.

Paul J. Perkins of Plante & Hanley, P.C ., White River Junction, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

W. E. Whittington of Whittington Law Associates, PLLC, Hanover, New Hampshire, for Defendant-Appellant.

Present: Reiber, C.J., Dooley, Skoglund, Burgess and Robinson, JJ.

OPINION

Page 1009

Burgess, J.

[¶ 1] Defendant Douglas Tuthill, Administrator of the Estate of Paul Oakes, appeals from the jury's award of $150,000 in punitive damages to plaintiff Doreen Carpentier and the trial court's denial of his motion for remittitur. Defendant also challenges the trial court's denial of his post-judgment motion to vacate a writ of attachment. We affirm.

[¶ 2] In January 2010, Paul Oakes was charged with numerous crimes based on acts alleged to have occurred at plaintiff's home. Oakes killed himself shortly before his arraignment on these charges. Following Oakes's death, plaintiff sued his estate, raising claims of assault and battery, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She sought compensatory and punitive damages. Plaintiff also requested a writ of attachment against certain real property owned by Oakes. The parties later stipulated that the court could issue a writ of attachment " without prejudice to the defendant's right to contest the attachment at a later date."

[¶ 3] The court bifurcated the liability and punitive damages components of the trial. Taking the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the following evidence was presented at the liability portion of the trial. Plaintiff lived with her grandchildren in an apartment complex for families in transition from homelessness to self-sufficiency. Plaintiff contacted Oakes Salvage to see if it would purchase her totaled car. She spoke to the owner, Paul Oakes, who showed up at plaintiff's apartment unannounced a few days later. Oakes bought the totaled vehicle, and plaintiff told him that she would obtain a proper title from the Department of Motor Vehicles. When Oakes returned later that day to pick up the car, he commented to plaintiff about the many single women living in the apartment complex. He stated that he understood the women's " situation" and then offered plaintiff money to have sex with him. During the next several days, Oakes called plaintiff twenty times.

[¶ 4] Oakes returned to plaintiff's apartment, asking about the vehicle title. He then told plaintiff that he would pay her $200 to have sex with him. Plaintiff told Oakes that she " wasn't like that." Oakes continued telling her that he knew she needed money and that he would pay her to have sex with him. Plaintiff told Oakes to leave, and he eventually did. Plaintiff reported Oakes's behavior to police.

[¶ 5] The next morning, plaintiff discovered Oakes inside her apartment. He had not been invited, he did not notify plaintiff ahead of time and did not knock. Oakes lunged at plaintiff. He grabbed her shirt and tried to pull it off. He said, " show me your tits." He put his hand under plaintiff's shirt and touched her breasts. Plaintiff tried to get away from him, and Oakes grabbed her from behind. He restrained her, took both her arms with one hand, and got behind her. With his other hand, he pushed her head down and began grinding himself into her, simulating anal sex. He asked plaintiff if she would do it that way. Plaintiff believed that Oakes was about to rape her. Plaintiff finally broke free of Oakes's restraint. Oakes told her that when he came back, plaintiff would have sex with him for money.

[¶ 6] The jury returned a verdict in plaintiff's favor on all three counts in her complaint and awarded her $30,000 in compensatory ...


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