Jerry Jones, The Stripper, and The Statute

The attempt by the owner of the Dallas Cowboys to dismiss the shocking lawsuit brought by Jana Weckerly and to impose sanctions on the plaintiff’s attorney just for filing it was denied yesterday. The hearing conducted by state district judge Dale Tillery was reported here.

Wenderly vs. Jones and Dallas Cowboys Football Club Ltd.

The lawsuit, filed by a “former exotic dancer” from Oklahoma who is now 27, claims that she has been damaged in excess of $1 million due to Jones’s sexual assault. The case was filed many years after she allegedly took the photos of two other women in somewhat compromising positions with Jones. They were released by a man who claims that he is the son of God. Apparently there are no photos or other evidence of her even being near Jones.

It’s impossible to know what really happened. Whether this woman was actually injured and, if so, why she would wait so long to file suit is the province of the judge and jury to determine.

While I don’t handle cases like this, this one is fascinating. In one corner stands a self-described family man and a business tycoon, an egotist, one of only two NFL owners who also chooses to be the GM with his team is mired in mediocrity.

Contrast this rich, famous, and old Hugh Hefner-type in these lurid photos to the powerless, unknown “working girls.” It’s the ultimate haves vs. have-nots. With this powerful NFL owner’s attempt yesterday to dismiss the lawsuit and its sexually suggestive photographs coupled with the horrific Ray Rice video and its apparent cover-up by the league, the openness and reputation of the NFL and its leadership comes into play.

Jones’s Next Move

Jones’s attorneys will now try to dismiss the suit based on the failure of the plaintiff to timely bring her lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, sometime in May or June of 2009 — the date is not clear — Jones committed various sexual assaults or demanded sexual acts. The lawsuit was not filed until this Monday, September 8, 2014, over five years later.

The statute of limitations for sexual assault cases is five years pursuant to Texas Civil Remedies & Practices Code, Section 16.0045. The petition allegeges that this period was suspended pursuant to Section 16.063 due to the plaintiff’s temporary absence from Texas. It is not clear when she lived in Texas, how long she has been out of the state, and whether she is a permanent resident of Texas.

What Is A Statute Of Limitations?

Generally, there is a two year period to file a lawsuit for personal injuries, Statutes of limitations are deadlines regulating how long a person has to file a civil suit or be prosecuted for a crime. The time period begins to run on the date the claim arises, for example the day a motor vehicle collision occurs. After the statute expires, a suit generally cannot be brought. The purpose of these laws is to make sure that conflicts are resolved within a reasonable amount of time, as witness recollections can easily fade, evidence can be lost, and disputes need to be resolved.

But as with all things related to the law, there are exceptions. Texas and most jurisdictions provide that limitations may be tolled, i..e. delayed. This usually happens if the injured party is a minor or incapacitated, an injury was actively concealed by the tortfeasor or was not discovered by the injured victim, bankruptcy was filed, or an agreement to extend is reached between the parties. In addition, under the theory of equitable tolling, the deadline may be extended if an individual intimidated the plaintiff. And the loosely defined doctrine of laches can be invoked in cases of equity, allowing a judge to refuse to issue an injunction if the requested party waited too long to ask for it.

Below are the statutes of limitations in Texas for various injury claims and the section of the Texas Civil Practices & Remedies Code where they can be located:

Fraud 4 years §16.004(a)(4)

Libel 1 year §16.002(a)

Medical malpractice 2 years §74.251(a)

Personal Injury 2 years §16.003(a)

Product liability 2 or 15 years §§16.003(a) and 16.012(b)

Property damage 2 years §16.003(a)

Wrongful death 2 years §16.003(a) and (b)

The Plaintiff’s Strategy

Judge Tillery has scheduled a hearing on Jones’s motion to dismiss based on the statute of limitations defense on September 26th. Since the five year statute has expired, the key question is whether the statute was somehow tolled. The plaintiff must show how long she plaintiff has resided outside of Texas and whether that absence was merely temporary.

Residency is a thorny legal question and can be loosely interpreted. I learned this when I filed a lawsuit in 2000 against George Bush and Dick Cheney based on their violation on the Constitution’s 12th Amendment which prohibits the presidential and vice-presidential nominees from both residing in the same state (Texas). The U.S. District Court and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals somehow held that Cheney was a resident of Wyoming, even though he had continually resided in Dallas for five years prior to that time when he was the CEO of Halliburton.

She can also argue that she was incapacitated somehow, perhaps by the severe trauma of the episode, if that can be proven. That seems to be a stretch.

Anything can happen in this — or any — case. Perhaps a confidential out of court settlement will be reached. Stay tuned.

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