J.W. v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, Inc.Annotate this Case
Plaintiff-respondent J.W., through her guardian ad litem, sued defendant-appellant Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. (Watchtower) and others for: (1) negligence; (2) negligent supervision/failure to warn; (3) negligent hiring/retention; (4) negligent failure to warn, train, or educate J.W.; (5) sexual battery; and (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress. J.W. was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. In July 2006, J.W. and Gilbert Simental belonged to the Mountain View Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Prior to July 2006, at a different congregation, Simental served as a ministerial servant and as an elder. Upon joining the Mountain View congregation, Simental served as an elder. In July 2006, J.W. and three other girls were invited to a slumber party at Simental’s home. Simental had a daughter near the age of J.W. and the other invited girls. While in his backyard pool, Simental sexually molested J.W. and another girl (Doe 1) in separate incidents. Doe 1’s sister, Doe 2, had previously been molested on two occasions by Simental. Doe 1 and Doe 2 told their mother about Simental molesting them. The mother contacted an elder of the congregation, a judicial committee was convened, and Simental admitted he molested Doe 2 on two occasions, and that he molested Doe 1 twice on July 15. In two criminal cases, Simental was ultimately found guilty of molesting Doe 1, Doe 2, and J.W. In her civil suit against Watchtower, J.W. moved to compel further discovery responses. The trial court’s order compelled Watchtower to produce all documents Watchtower received in response to a letter sent by Watchtower to Jehovah’s Witness congregations on March 14, 1997, concerning known molesters in the church (1997 Documents). By November 2014, Watchtower had not produced the 1997 Documents, and J.W. moved for terminating sanctions. At a hearing on the sanctions motion, the trial court offered Watchtower four days to produce the 1997 Documents. Watchtower declined the offer and refused to produce the 1997 Documents. The trial court granted the motion for terminating sanctions and struck Watchtower’s answer. The trial court clerk entered Watchtower’s default. After considering evidence, the trial court entered judgment in favor of J.W. and awarded her $4,016,152.39. Raising multiple issues of alleged error, Watchtower appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed judgment.