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A Landmark Decision
Vesel had a fight ahead of her in court, too. To get
damages, each woman had to prove she’d suffered harm from harassment
at the mine. Lawyers for the mine tried to prove that if the women were
psychologically scarred, it was from other events in their lives, not
their years at the mine. A retired judge was appointed to hear this
part of the case. Twenty years later, lawyer Paul Sprenger says he’s
still appalled at the personal questions the judge let the company lawyers
“We were solely asking the questions and obtaining the material that you would need in order to do a proper psychiatric evaluation,” says Goldstein. “Many psychiatric problems have their origins in childhood or early life. You need to go back that far in order to understand the record.”
Goldstein says company lawyers were not trying to scare women into dropping out of the suit. But one woman did quit: Jan Wollin. One of her sons had been convicted of murder a few years before, and she didn’t want to relive that. Her arthritis was aggravated by stress. And besides, she says what she really wanted was an apology, and she got one.
“We went to court and the foreman was on the stand,” she says. “They asked him if he ever had patted me. And he said, ‘Yes I did.’ And he said right on the stand, ‘Jan I’m sorry. I was out of line. I never should have done that.’ And I was happy. I was happy.”
When the trial was finally over, the other women would not be so happy. They had spent months making their case. But the judge did not believe them.
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