In a groundbreaking ruling, the Circuit Court of First Circuit has awarded $40 million in damages to a brave survivor identified as "N.D.," who was a victim of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of Kenneth L. Apana, an elder of the Makaha congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The ruling, issued on July 18, 2023, marks a significant step towards holding perpetrators of sexual crimes against children accountable.
The lawsuit was filed in 2020 against Apana and the Makaha, Hawaii Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, where Apana served as an elder. While the claims against the church were resolved through a confidential settlement, the case proceeded on damages against the individual abuser, who had failed to respond.
According to the Court's findings, Apana, now 78 years old and living on Hawaii Island, sexually molested minor girls for a staggering 23-year period, spanning from 1988 to 2011. N.D. was among Apana's victims, experiencing horrific sexual abuse at the tender age of 12 during sleepovers at Apana's home.
The Court revealed disturbing details of Apana's predatory behavior, which extended to four young girls, including a family member. Shockingly, Apana had never faced any legal consequences for his actions prior to this ruling.
The Court's conclusions of law indicated that had Apana been criminally prosecuted, he would have faced severe felony charges with lengthy prison sentences. Despite the lack of criminal prosecution, the evidence presented in court led Judge Dean Ochiai to find Apana guilty of committing these heinous crimes against N.D. and other victims.
To acknowledge the severity of the abuse and to punish Apana for his reprehensible actions, the Court awarded N.D. $15 million in compensatory damages for the harm she endured and an additional $25 million in punitive damages.
Mark Davis, one of the attorneys at Davis Levin Livingston who represented N.D., expressed satisfaction with the Court's ruling. He emphasized the importance of holding sexual predators accountable for their actions, especially when their victims are innocent children. Davis acknowledged N.D.'s courage in confronting her abuser, leading to this significant decision that aims to reflect the immense harm caused.
The case sheds light on the crucial issue of child sexual abuse within religious organizations and the importance of addressing such offenses transparently and legally. N.D.'s bravery in coming forward to seek justice will hopefully inspire other survivors to speak out and challenge the perpetrators of these despicable crimes.
The ruling not only seeks justice for N.D. but also serves as a powerful message to potential offenders that society will not tolerate such reprehensible behavior. By holding Apana accountable for his actions, this landmark decision sets a precedent that should act as a deterrent for other wrongdoers.
As N.D. continues to grapple with the devastating effects of the abuse, this verdict may provide her with some measure of closure and validation. While no amount of money can fully compensate for the emotional and psychological trauma she has endured, this ruling sends a resounding message that survivors of sexual abuse deserve justice and that their voices will be heard.
The case was handled by: Davis Levin Livingston 851 Fort Street Suite 400, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813 and The Law office of James Rogers in Seattle Washington.
Read more in the press release.