At Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis LLP, we take on challenging cases. In some cases, our clients have been represented by a different lawyer prior to retaining our services. When we handle your case, we work hard to establish its full value, prove it with solid evidence and aggressively advocate for your maximum compensation.
We handle all cases on a contingency fee basis and finance all aspects of case preparation and litigation ourselves. You pay no attorney fees unless we obtain a favorable verdict or settlement in your case.
Our talented therapist abuse lawyers based in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles bring more than 60 years of combined experience litigating cases in a variety of unique circumstances for diverse clients throughout California.
If you have been subjected to any form of mistreatment, harassment or abuse from a therapist, please call us at (510) 433-1000 to discuss your legal options confidentially.
Significant Settlement Results
Several of our cases have had national implications. Even confidential settlements and cases that have not yielded relatively large settlements or verdicts have contributed to important societal changes in California and the U.S. Our priority is always to serve our clients’ best interests while also advocating for the safety, security and peace of mind of the public at large.
The results of the cases below were based on the facts of the particular case. Results will differ if based on different facts.
$2 Million — 30-Year-Old Woman Sexually Abused By Psychologist At Southern California Outpatient Treatment Facility
Plaintiff was referred to a psychologist due to her chronic leg pain not responding to traditional physical treatment modalities. Defendant was a specialist in treating patients with physical disorders.
Over the course of time, this San Diego psychologist convinced plaintiff that her leg pain was caused by her repressed sexuality and the only way that she would be able to overcome her leg pain would be to engage in ever-escalating sexual contact with defendant. Defendant psychologist was eventually arrested and convicted of inappropriate conduct with a patient.
The civil case focused on the clinic’s responsibility for damages incurred by plaintiff at the hands of defendant since the psychiatrist was uninsured and did not have significant assets. The clinic took the position that it had no way of knowing that the psychologist was abusing plaintiff and that the clinic could not be responsible under the doctrine of respondeat superior because the psychologist’s actions by definition were outside the scope of his employment.
After a long, hard-fought litigation and three mediations, the case finally settled for $2 million. During the course of the litigation, Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis LLP, was able to develop evidence that indicated that defendant knew or should have known of the psychologist’s dangerous propensities in time to at least stop his most severe abuse of the plaintiff. Further, the facts of this particular case made it impossible to separate what was or was not within the course and scope of the psychologist’s employment. Further, the law firm retained an expert psychiatrist who was of the opinion that plaintiff would require several million dollars worth of psychotherapy and possibly hospitalization to overcome the injury suffered by plaintiff in the course of treatment.
Result: $2 million settlement on behalf of plaintiff
$1 Million — Couple Sues Psychiatrist And His Wife For Malpractice, Abuse And Betrayal
The plaintiffs in this case were a middle-aged couple who sought treatment from defendant psychiatrist and his wife, who was a psychiatric nurse and also performed group therapy.
After treating the husband and wife plaintiffs for several years and stating that the husband was “like a son,” defendant psychiatrist began a sexual relationship with plaintiff wife after abusing the transference phenomenon and committing numerous acts of negligence. When defendant’s wife learned of the sexual relationship between her husband and their patient, she ordered defendant psychiatrist to stop seeing both patients immediately, which is considered abandonment. Further, she informed plaintiff husband of the relationship which she blamed entirely on plaintiff wife.
As plaintiffs’ marriage was falling apart, Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis LLP, was retained and alleged that both husband and wife suffered severe damage as a result of defendant psychiatrist’s abuse of the transference in which he betrayed both patients. Further, the firm alleged that defendant wife’s forced abrupt termination of the patients and blaming of the victim was horrendous negligence.
In the lawsuit, the defense claimed that plaintiff wife was, in fact, responsible for the relationship and any problems from which the plaintiffs suffered were due to long-standing marital problems rather than the abuse by the defendants. Further, the defendants’ insurance company denied coverage for the sexual acts.
Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis LLP, was able to establish that the conduct of both defendants was substandard and nearly ruined their patients’ marriage and lives. Fortunately, the plaintiffs are still married.
Result: $1 million policy limit settlement on behalf of the plaintiffs
$950,000 — Fledgling Actress Has 26-Year Inappropriate Sexual Relationship With Psychiatrist
Plaintiff was a woman in her mid-50s who had been sexually involved with her psychiatrist since her mid-20s. Over that entire time period, he would have a combination of regular psychotherapy sessions with her and occasionally engage in a sexual relationship. The defendant admitted to having sex with the plaintiff on several occasions. However, he testified that treatment had stopped many years before the sexual relationship began.
The defense alleged that plaintiff was fabricating the sexual relationship and the fact that there was ongoing treatment and, more significantly, that the plaintiff had sought the advice of an attorney five years before she actually brought the lawsuit. The attorney told her that she had a good lawsuit, yet failed to file at that time, thus the statute of limitations had run on her claim by the time she finally brought it.
Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis LLP, was associated in on this case after early settlement efforts had failed. The defense made a motion to the court to have the case dismissed based on the statute of limitations and won. However, this decision was reversed by an appellate court and the case then settled.
Result: Settlement on behalf of plaintiff of $950,000
$900,000 — Young Woman Wins Sex Abuse Case Against Her Psychotherapist And Assault Case Against Her Psychotherapist’s Husband
Plaintiff was a woman in her 20s suffering from attention deficit disorder. She sought the treatment of a Northern California psychotherapist. The female psychotherapist ended up in a sexual relationship with the plaintiff. When the psychotherapist’s husband found out about the sexual relationship, he entered the patient’s house with a gun, threatening to kill the plaintiff. He was arrested.
The defense denied the assault by the husband, and, though the psychotherapist admitted the sexual relationship with the patient, she blamed the patient for initiating the relationship. Further, the defense attempted to paint plaintiff as a woman who serially seduced heterosexual women.
Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis LLP, beat back these defenses by, first of all, emphasizing the law and standard of care that always places full responsibility for a sexual relationship between a patient and a psychotherapist on the psychotherapist.
Further, the firm, through investigation, uncovered physical evidence tending to indicate that there was an actual assault on plaintiff and that her life was in danger.
Result: $900,000 settlement on behalf of plaintiff
$750,000 — Case In Which A Male-To-Female Transsexual Sued Ex-Therapist For Negligence And Abuse
Plaintiff in this case was a 45-year-old transsexual (male to female) who sought treatment from a psychotherapist when he was a woman to help him through the sexual transition. Plaintiff alleged that before the operation, the defendant female psychotherapist took him into her house and began a sexual relationship with him while treatment continued.
Plaintiff had the sex-change operation and the sexual relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant therapist continued. Plaintiff alleged that the relationship ended when the therapist decided that plaintiff was no longer of any use to her.
The defendant denied all of the allegations of the plaintiff and claimed that the plaintiff had threatened her on numerous occasions. Further, the defense claimed that a jury would not take the case seriously because of the transsexual aspects.
Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis LLP, took on the case and developed evidence that indicated that plaintiff spent considerable time in the defendant’s home and that plaintiff could describe in detail private information about defendant, including sexual devices that she used. A patient should never know of this type of information about a therapist.
The law firm hired a jury consultant and performed a mock trial/focus group in front of 12 potential jurors in the same county and found that, at first, the transsexuality aspects of the case disturbed the jurors. However, within a short period of time they were comfortable with that part of the case and felt angry at the actions of the defendant. Based on this, the law firm continued toward trial of the case.
Result: Settlement in favor of plaintiff for $750,000
$750,000 — 45-Year-Old Woman Brings Medical Negligence And Sexual Abuse Case Against Psychotherapist And Psychiatric Clinic
Plaintiff in this case was a 45-year-old woman who sought treatment from a psychiatric clinic when she became significantly depressed as a result of her husband’s substance abuse. Despite asking to be seen by a Ph.D. psychologist, plaintiff was assigned to an MFCC, who did not have a Ph.D. in psychology despite the fact that he did have a Ph.D. on his business card.
Plaintiff claimed that she was misled by the clinic and the therapist and believed that the therapist was a qualified psychologist. During the course of therapy, the psychotherapist committed various boundary violations and eventually engaged in a four-time sexual relationship with plaintiff.
The psychiatric clinic attempted to deny any responsibility for the actions of the psychotherapist, claiming that whatever sexual relationship existed between plaintiff and the psychotherapist occurred after treatment had terminated and outside of the clinic.
Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis LLP, through a thorough investigation, was able to find evidence that the psychotherapist was convicted of two drunk driving charges prior to his sexual relationship with plaintiff and had been in drug and alcohol rehab twice. The evidence indicated that the psychiatric clinic knew of this information, yet did not recognize that this made the psychotherapist unsuitable to treat patients such as plaintiff.
Plaintiff had previously been represented by another attorney, who did not aggressively pursue the issue of the clinic’s notice of the psychotherapist’s erratic behavior. When Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis LLP, took over the case, the only offer to settle made by defendants was less than $100,000.
Result: $750,000 settlement on behalf of plaintiff.
$750,000 — Three Children And Mother Alleged Sexual Abuse By Hypnotherapist
In this case, a 35-year-old woman alleged that she was sexually abused by her hypnotherapist and that he also molested her three children. The defense denied that there was any professional relationship between the defendant and the mother and thus sex between them was consensual, and denied any molestation of the children.
Further, the defense took more than 50 depositions of teachers and friends of the children to try to establish there was no evidence of molestation and that the mother made it up to get back at defendant.
John D. Winer, through investigation, was able to find significant evidence that tended to establish that there was a professional relationship between the defendant and plaintiff (he acted as her hypnotherapist) and a psychiatrist testified that the children’s symptoms were consistent with a molestation by defendant.
The defense hired a psychologist to contradict this testing but she was impeached by cross-examination.
Result: Settlement on behalf of plaintiffs for $750,000.
$700,000 — Woman In Her 40s Sexually Abused By Her Psychotherapist
Plaintiff was in long-term treatment with her Northern California psychiatrist. During the course of the treatment, the psychiatrist inappropriately entered into a sexual relationship with plaintiff over a number of years.
Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis LLP, was retained. The law firm established that defendant breached the psychotherapeutic transference phenomena, thus overcoming the defendant’s claim that the relationship between defendant and plaintiff was consensual. During the lawsuit, plaintiff alleged that she lost the best years of her life, remaining in the sexual relationship with the defendant rather than developing her own life.
Result: Settlement on behalf of plaintiff for $700,000.
$675,000 — Three Patients Allege They Were Lured Into Drug And Sex Parties By Their Therapists
Plaintiffs in this case were three patients of a male psychotherapist who practiced under the license of his psychologist wife. Two of the plaintiffs were boyfriend and girlfriend. The boyfriend and girlfriend alleged that after long-term psychotherapy, defendant husband psychotherapist invited them to defendants’ house for dinner where he induced the boyfriend to take the drug Ecstasy while both defendants took the drug. During the night, the defendants committed multiple boundary violations, including an alleged sexual assault on plaintiff girlfriend.
The third plaintiff, in a separate case, alleged that defendants induced her to go to Los Angeles with them to see an art show when their real purpose was to engage her in sexual activity and to take drugs with her, despite the fact that they knew she was a drug addict.
The defendants admitted that the first two plaintiffs were at their house and that the third plaintiff went to Los Angeles with them, but denied any ill intentions or use of any drugs or sexual contact. Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis LLP, was able to develop evidence that tended to establish that the testimony of the plaintiffs was highly credible and the firm blew up a picture taken by one of the plaintiffs during the Los Angeles trip that showed defendant wife with a rolled up dollar bill with a white substance on a table in front of her.
Result: Settlement on behalf of the plaintiffs $675,000.
$400,000 – Female College Student Sexually Harassed And Abused By Her Psychotherapist In The College Counseling Program
Plaintiff was a college student in her early 20s. She sought psychological counseling to help with significant adjustment issues. Instead of providing adequate psychotherapy, defendant psychotherapist seduced plaintiff into a sexual relationship by abusing the transference process, which destroyed the effectiveness of her treatment and caused plaintiff additional psychological injury.
Defendant therapist alleged that the relationship was consensual and the school alleged that it was not responsible for its employee’s consensual sexual relationship with a client.
Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis LLP, retained expert witnesses, who opined that because of the power differential between the psychotherapist and the patient, it was impossible for the sexual relationship to be consensual and that based on California law under the circumstances in this case, the school should be responsible for the psychotherapist employee’s actions.
Result: Settlement on behalf of plaintiff for $400,000.
$300,000 — Woman In Southern California Brings Therapist Exploitation Case
Plaintiff was a woman in her 20s who sought treatment from a therapist for mild depression. The therapist learned that she had suffered severe physical and emotional abuse as a child and the plaintiff alleged that he used that information to engage in a sexual relationship with her.
The therapist admitted that the sexual relationship occurred. However, his insurance company, like every medical malpractice insurance company, took the position that sexual exclusions within the policy either eliminated any responsibility for the insurance company or limited its damages to a $25,000 “sex cap.” There was only a $25,000 offer when Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis LLP, was associated in on the case.
The law firm was able to establish that there were significant negligent actions in addition to the sexual abuse and that the negligent actions should be covered by insurance under California law, even though the insurance policies attempted to exclude this coverage.
Result: $300,000 settlement on behalf of plaintiff.
$300,000 — Woman Looking For Psychological Help Ends Up Being Sexually Abused By Psychotherapist
Plaintiff in this case was a 45-year-old woman who sought treatment with a psychologist in Southern California for depression and adjustment problems. She alleged that the defendant stopped therapy with her for the sole purpose of engaging in a personal and sexual relationship and did engage in such a relationship for several months and then dumped her when he was tired of her.
Defendant never admitted to the sexual relationship and stated that the personal relationship only began months after therapy terminated, when the plaintiff pursued the defendant. Further, the defendant claimed that the plaintiff was not in any way damaged by the relationship because she moved out of state, found a boyfriend and started a job that paid considerably more than she had been earning.
Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis LLP, came into this case only a month before it was set for trial. The prior attorney had done very little to work up the case and, in fact, had failed to name any expert witnesses as required by law. The case had already gone to mediation and the defense refused to offer more than a nuisance settlement.
Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis LLP, filed a motion with the court that allowed them to use an expert who specialized in therapist-patient sex abuse, and after John Winer completed the deposition of the defendant that had been started by the prior lawyer, the case turned and immediately settled, despite defendant’s insurance company’s reliance on limitation of damages to a $25,000 sex cap.
Result: Settlement on behalf of plaintiff for $300,000.
$265,000 — Woman Wins Settlement In Case Where Therapist Denies Sexual Misconduct
Plaintiff in this case was a woman in her 30s who sought treatment for psychological problems with a psychologist in Orange County. Plaintiff alleged that the psychologist breached the proper boundaries of therapy by sexualizing the treatment and failing to treat the plaintiff for her presenting problems.
The defendant denied the sexual relationship and defended the case by attempting to attack the plaintiff’s credibility. Further, the defense claimed that a $25,000 sex cap was in place. Therefore, that was all the insurance company would offer.
After defendant refused to offer any money to another law firm, Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis LLP, was retained, and the law firm found evidence that indicated there were boundary violations and negligent acts on the part of the defendant that injured the plaintiff. Due to the damage from the negligent acts, it was unreasonable for the insurance company to rely on the $25,000 sex cap. After a two-day mediation, the case settled.
Result: Settlement on behalf of the plaintiff of $265,000.
Learn About Your Legal Options In A Free Consultation
To discuss your case with an experienced and compassionate attorney, call Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis LLP, at (510) 433-1000.