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Defense Attorneys: Did Sexual Harrassment Really Cause Emotional Damage? From Mchenry

Apr 10, 2008
As a defense attorney, you may not be aware of the huge benefits that psychological assessment can provide in mitigating, even well documented claims of emotional damage resulting from alleged sexual harassment in the workplace. These claims are often reduced to highly emotional and misleading scenarios of sexual abuse and can be very persuasive in convincing juries to award large amounts in damages.

However, even though your clients behavior may have been reprehensible, the plaintiff still must demonstrate, not only that the alleged events occurred, but also that actual harm ensued. Your adversary, the plaintiffs attorney, often hopes that the factual events, themselves, will be suggestive of such a compelling harm, that the jury will automatically assume that the emotional damage alleged inevitably occurred.

However, using a complete psychological evaluation, you, as the defense lawyer, can often show that one of the following alternatives is really the case:

1. Despite the allegations, no meaningful or objective harm actually resulted

2. Any harm that may have occurred was negligible, short-lived and is now resolved.

3. The plaintiffs apparent emotional symptoms actually resulted from a pre-existing condition rather than by the events alleged in the current lawsuit.

4. The plaintiff is now malingering, regardless of whether any harm was or was not present.

5. The plaintiff is not credible because pre-existing psychological impairments cause the symptoms.

As defense counsel, you can build one of these mitigating arguments, first, by contracting with a forensic psychologist who can administer a battery of psychological tests. This assessment process can determine whether one of the above mitigating possibilities may exist.

Additionally, because of the scientific standardization of the tests, your expert can often free himself or herself from impeachment arguments regarding being merely a hired gun. To eliminate any claims of bias, your expert witness will use scientifically objective tests that are scored objectively by a computer assessment lab.

These scoring laboratories expertly produce a complete and revealing narrative report; their objectivity and lack of bias is assured because no input of any kind is provided by your psychological expert or anyone else.
Your psychological expert can attest to the lack of bias by testifying that the scientifically developed computer program which interpreted the test responses was objective and had no interest in the outcome of the case.

Often your expert will be able to quote verbatim from the computer-generated report. It is an invaluable tool, in that it can be read to the jury to counter the emotionally-charged appeals of the plaintiff, that he or she has experienced devastating harm.

The most popular, and most scientifically studied, objective psychological test is the renowned MMPI-2 (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory). It has been in continuous development since World War II and has been the subject of some 10,500 scientific studies.

An expert psychologist can use this instrument to screen for:

1. Malingering (the faking of a bad outcome)

2. Denial (the faking of a good outcome)

3. Personality Disorders. These are chronic psychological dysfunctions which are not induced by psychological trauma, such as workplace sexual harassment

4. Any pre-existing conditions, which may mimic psychological injury, but are actually unrelated to the case at hand(e.g., chronic depression)

5. Absence of emotional injury.

6. Dubious credibility of the plaintiff.

The MMPI-2 consists of 567 true or false questions which provide the basis for several validity scales. These scales assess the plaintiffs veracity or attempts to deceive when answering the questions.

There is also a large number of scales, which measure the plaintiffs actual degree of psychopathology.
These validity scales also reveal whether she actually responded specifically to the content of the items, rather than answering the questions randomly or using some particular response-bias, such as always saying true or false.

One huge plus is that these proven clinical scales can scientifically identify nearly all recognized psychological impairments and objectively evaluate the degree of any emotional harm afflicting the plaintiff.
About the Author
Dr Shery is in Cary, IL, near Algonquin, Crystal Lake, Marengo and Lake-in-the-Hills. He's an expert psychologist. Call 1 847 516 0899 and make an appt orlearn more about counseling at: http://www.carypsychology.com
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