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Jury: Man must pay ex-girlfriend $100,000

A jury deliberated for about 4 1/2 hours Friday before deciding a 75-year-old retired Duluth man had inflicted emotional distress on his former girlfriend and ordered him to pay her more than $100,000 in damages.

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A jury deliberated for about 4½ hours Friday before deciding a 75-year-old retired Duluth man had inflicted emotional distress on his former girlfriend and ordered him to pay her more than $100,000 in damages.

Julee A. Sipper, 52, of Superior filed the civil lawsuit against Walter Goodman on May 8, 2007. She alleged that Goodman intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon her by "extreme, outrageous and willful behavior." She said the behavior included verbal and physical threats, stalking, sexual assault, trespassing upon her household, putting her in fear of great bodily harm and other manipulative conduct.

The five-woman, one-man jury awarded Sipper, a registered nurse, $108,684. They earmarked $50,000 of it for past pain, disability and emotional distress, $43,785 for past health-care expenses and $14,899 for past wage loss.

She said she suffered severe bodily and mental injuries and faced future emotional distress because of Goodman's behavior. She said she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and severe anxiety.

According to court documents, Sipper is divorced and Goodman is married. The pair met at a Gambler's Anonymous meeting in spring of 2004. The relationship started after a party at a Gambler's Anonymous member's home. Goodman told Sipper he would follow her home in his car because she had drunk too much. He then started showing up at her Kenwood apartment unannounced, Sipper said in her deposition taken in February.

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"I think my client was looking for some justice for what she thought had been done to her, and I think she feels vindicated by the verdict,'' said Duluth attorney James Peterson, who represented Sipper.

In her deposition, Sipper said that in the initial stages of their relationship it was helpful to have Goodman to talk to about her gambling addiction.

She said the first time they had sex, she didn't want to, but she was afraid of him. She said she had sex with him a second time at Goodman's house where she went only to have a glass of wine. She said she was "incredibly naive." She said they had consensual sex after drinking wine and smoking marijuana together.

The relationship ended, Sipper said, after Goodman became angry when she said something publicly that might have revealed their relationship together. She said Goodman then performed a rough sex act on her, which included him repeatedly biting her on both inner thighs. In his deposition, Goodman said that the sex was "just normal" and "nothing that we hadn't done before."

Sipper had her bruises photographed by the Superior Police Department and she obtained an order for protection. Goodman honored those court-imposed conditions.

"I'm shocked and surprised by the jury's verdict,'' said Duluth defense attorney David Malban, who represented Goodman. "I've been doing this better than 25 years. I don't think I've ever gone on the record and said the jury got it wrong. I would say that in this case: They just got it wrong."

The special verdict form contained 15 questions for jurors. The first question: "Was Walter Goodman's conduct extreme and outrageous?'' Jurors answered "Yes.'' They then found that Goodman caused Sipper severe emotional distress and that he committed civil assault and civil battery.

Civil battery is an act that causes harmful or offensive unconsented contact. Civil assault is an act that causes a reasonable and imminent apprehension of harmful or offensive contact.

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Sipper said in her deposition that the relationship evolved and she was in effect Goodman's girlfriend and he did things for her, such as helping her find the house that she ultimately purchased.

She said Goodman told her he wanted to marry her and led her to believe he was going through a divorce. She said she told him she had no interest in marrying him and told him to leave her alone numerous times. She said their sexual relationship started in September 2005 and ended in August 2006.

Judge Eric Hylden presided over the four-day trial in St. Louis County District Court.

Malban said he will be filing some post-trial motions with the court, but declined to elaborate. He said he wanted to talk to his client before deciding whether to appeal the verdict.

MARK STODGHILL covers public safety and courts. He can be reached weekdays at (218) 723-5333 or by e-mail at mstodghill@duluthnews.com .

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