Sloan, Bagley, Hatcher & Perry Law Firm in Longview won a $21 million verdict in Athens, Texas this past week. In 2012, the nationally-recognized law firm represented two young girls, both ages 5 and 6 at the time. They both suffered aggravated sexual assault over a period of 6 months, by a man who was a close family friend.
Jim Gunder, was a respectable business man and a deacon in his church, who used his position in the community to get close to the young girls. Gunder cultivated a relationship of trust with their mother. and also their father, who was deployed overseas with the U.S. Air Force. He took in both girls, and their mother. Gunder promised the father, he would care for them while he was gone, but he did quite the contrary.
Justin Smith, a partner of John Sloan at Sloan, Bagley, Hatcher & Perry Law Firm said, “Gunder said ‘I’m going to be a father figure to them for you, while you’re gone.’ And he didn’t do that. He took that trust given to him and betrayed it. He used that to get access to the kids and sexually abuse them.”
He sexually abused the two minors, making them feel inferior. The lawyer’s at Sloan Firm said this case was crucial to win because it’s an underreported issue. People don’t realize how often it happens, and the extent of damage it can do to a child.
“It kills apart of who they are and changes them forever. It’s something that they have to deal with every day, at every stage of their life, from this day until they die. What the verdict did, is really acknowledge just how terrible this is,” said Smith.
The court awarded the two children $7 million in damages for future medical expenses, past and future suffering and anguish. They also gave them $14 million in punitive damages. The law firm is happy with the verdict. But, they know this large sum of money can’t take away the pain and suffering that both of these girls went through.