Case Descriptions

Invasion of Privacy

An individual reported increased anxiety and distress after unexpected dissemination of embarrassing personal details on social media by a third party. These materials subsequently "went viral." The issue was clarification about the individual's prior anxiety, and the degree to which the individual's distress was related to the actual events that occurred at the function, versus distress that was caused by the unexpected/unauthorized dissemination of private material.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

An individual with substantial chronic medical issues claims PTSD stemming from inadequate accommodations and maintenance at their place of residence. Symptoms of PTSD were not documented in the medical record until many months after the precipitating event. Issues addressed in the case include appropriate assessment and diagnosis of delayed onset PTSD, particularly in the context of possible secondary gain.

Neurobiology of Trauma

Mediation was ordered in a series of cases involving adults who had alleged institutional maltreatment in childhood. The issue was the causal connection between childhood exposure to traumatic stress and deficits in emotional and physical health throughout the lifespan, to be addressed in a general report evaluating multiple threads of evidence from neuroscience research.

False Memory and Recovered Memory

A middle-age person claims to have suffered childhood sexual abuse, after an extended period of forgetting. Issues of “false memory” versus recollection of a “repressed memory” were raised in this case. Specific matters addressed included the impact of therapeutic suggestion, social influence, and traumatic stress on memory function.

Sexual Abuse

A young adult reported anger, shame, and heavy substance use following sexual contact with a trusted adult when he was an adolescent. Issues raised include factors that contribute to resilient coping and specific impacts that arise when a sexual perpetrator also occupies a position of regard and authority in relation to a minor.

Medical Complications

A young child has ongoing medical complications related to the ingestion of a foreign body. Opposing medical experts have widely diverging opinions regarding the ultimate prognosis and need for future surgical procedures. The consultation question centered on how to assess current coping and estimate lifetime psychological damages in the context of an uncertain medical / surgical prognosis.

Delayed Discovery

An individual with a history of childhood adverse event makes a claim for damages well into adulthood. This litigant reports more or less continuous memory for the events themselves, but only recently claims to have become aware of the link between the adverse event and psychological and relational problems throughout adulthood.

Capacity and Decision Making

An individual of substantial means faces possible civil and legal sanctions related to inappropriate financial transactions. Questions were raised regarding the impact of chronic medical illness and possible mental health issues on cognitive capacity and judgement, with particular focus the capacity to manage complex financial matters.

Adoption

A young child is adopted after the death of both parents. Early behavioral and academic issues were attributed to grief and trauma. Many years later, as an adolescent, the adoptee develops substantial behavioral and mental health issues, and escalating conflict with the adoptive family, who allege fraudulent adoption. Consultation questions in this complicated case involve the impacts of early developmental trauma, interactions with the adoptive family, assessment of childhood behaviors, and to what degree can adolescent behaviors be reasonably predicted based on childhood presentation.

"Your report gave us the confidence to go into mediation knowing we would be well prepared for trial." — Client Comment

"We have made great progress in mediation. Your research and expert contributions have been an immense help. Thank you." — Client Comment

"The jury was engaged and attentive to you during your entire testimony. You did a great job of making complex biological mechanisms not just understandable, but interesting." — Client Comment

"Our expert, Dr. Walter Sipe, made a great impression on the jury, and gained credibility by accepting much of what the opposing expert wrote about our client in his report. Sipe did a particularly good job teaching the jury about the grooming process. He also explained how the damages from the sex abuse dovetail with the stressors our client suffered later in life, which helped deflate what the jury heard about our client’s very acrimonious break-up. The jurors we spoke to said they really liked Sipe." — (posted on a trial lawyers listserve)

Read Lifelong Effects of Childhood Trauma.