A Harris County jury awarded $20 million in damages Wednesday to a rape victim who sued her apartment complex for failing to notify residents about previous sexual attacks on the property. The woman lived at The Promenade Cullen Park when a masked man who resided in the west Houston complex raped and sodomized her for more than 10 hours in February 2009. The Houston Chronicle does not identify victims of sexual assault. According to the lawsuit, apartment officials knew about a break-in next door to the woman’s unit a few weeks before her ordeal in which a man tried to rape that resident and failed to notify other tenants about a sexual predator. The woman who filed suit lived alone and renewed her lease shortly after the earlier incident without being told about its severity, said Troy Chandler, a lawyer on the Williams Kherkher team who represented the woman.
“The apartment complex issued a notice that an apartment had been broken into – the same warning that they would send out if a bicycle was stolen off a balcony or a TV was stolen out of an apartment,” Chandler said. “The notice failed to mention that a burglary occurred, that the assailant waited inside, that a tenant was attacked and that there had been an attempted rape.” The lawsuit, filed in June 2010, sought damages for negligence and deceptive trade practices. The woman continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, Chandler said. After a weeklong trial, the jury awarded $7 million for physical pain and mental anguish, $5 million for future mental anguish and $8 million for conduct forbidden by the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
The verdict comes one day before the three-year anniversary of the attack. “She wanted the apartment complex to change their notification policy,” Chandler said. “Her goal is to make sure that another person does not suffer and she wanted a jury to acknowledge what (apartment officials) did was wrong.” Chandler said he expects the defendant to appeal the verdict. Neither lawyers representing the apartment company nor a spokesperson for the Thompson Coe law firm could be reached for comment late Wednesday. Police, on notice about a possible serial rapist, arrested Darryl Anthony Martin shortly after the woman’s attacker fled and she called 911. Martin, now 24, pleaded guilty to sexual assault in 2010 and was sentenced to 20 years in state prison.