Justice Watch: Appeal Seeks To Reinstate $155M Aventura Verdict

, Daily Business Review


Katherine Murphy
Katherine Murphy

Public Insults

Trial testimony supported her claims that Soroka routinely used sexual innuendo and swore at Murphy in public settings, calling her a "whore" and "idiot" in front of other school employees and parents.

A psychiatrist testified at trial that Murphy suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The trial featured testimony describing tantrums by Soroka and how he ran Aventura like a fiefdom. Until two years ago, a mural in the charter school's main hallway depicted Soroka and his wife, Teresa, who serves as the city clerk, on a bicycle built for two.

An amicus brief supporting Murphy's appeal was filed by the National Employment Lawyers Association's Florida chapter and the Florida Justice Association, previously the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, a plaintiffs bar group.

"A public official who exercises governmental powers outside the scope of legitimate authority forfeits the protection of sovereign immunity and is individually and personally liable for damages just as though he were a private citizen," states a brief by Tallahassee attorney Richard E. Johnson and Miami lawyer Andrew Paul Kawel.

Murphy's attorneys insist Soroka's immunity argument was undermined by actions clearly outside the scope of his role as a city official.

Murphy's appellate brief reiterates testimony on how Soroka forced Murphy to hand over confidential student information to his wife to find out whether "these students had been allowed into the school."

The appellate brief also said Soroka sent armed police officers to Murphy's Palm Beach County home twice to deliver documents of her "termination package."

"Soroka falsely testified that he used police as couriers 'all the time' but could not identify a single example," Murphy's brief states. She said the officers told her she would be arrested if she set foot in Aventura.

Burton said allowing the verdict's dismissal to stand would be a travesty, not just for Murphy.

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