A Mecklenburg County jury has awarded $772,275 to a woman who claimed that her former boss sexually assaulted her when she was a teen in a coffee shop’s restroom, according to court documents and the woman’s attorneys.
Sean Herrmann and Kevin Murphy of Herrmann & Murphy in Charlotte report that their client, Caroline Cox, had been the general manager of a coffee shop in Cornelius owned by Lewis Jewett. After taking another full-time job, Cox lost her position as GM, but continued to work at the shop part-time and lived in an apartment above another coffee shop Jewett owned.
Jewett started making inappropriate comments toward her and giving her hugs that lasted too long and then began asking her for nude photos. A few days after she turned 18, Cox came to the shop to pick up her paycheck. Jewett, who was 48, claimed he wanted to show her a remodeled bathroom. While they were in the room Jewett sexually assaulted her, Cox alleged.
She avoided the coffee shop for the next two weeks before agreeing to meet with Jewett. She recorded their conversation, in which he told her, “I am sorry I did that to you, whether it was consensual or not. It doesn’t matter.” Cox pressed charges against Jewett, and he was charged with forcible assault and battery, but the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges.
Cox, who said she felt betrayed by the DA’s decision, sued Jewett, seeking civil damages for false imprisonment, assault, and battery. Jewett represented himself at a trial that lasted two days, and the jury deliberated for about two hours on Feb. 18 before awarding Cox $322,275 in personal injury damages and $450,000 in punitive damages.
Herrmann said that Jewett admitted to asking Cox for nude pictures but denied engaging in sexual relations with her and claimed that the recorded apologies were in regards to asking for the pictures, not a sexual assault.
“It was very obvious to everyone in the courtroom that that didn’t make any sense at all,” Herrmann said.
The attorneys said that Cox’s own testimony, along with the recordings, were the biggest pieces of evidence against Jewett, and Cox was able to clearly show the jury how the assault had affected her.
“To go through this with her and to get the verdict she got is one of the most satisfying things we have ever been a part of,” Herrmann said. “This is not going after some big company for discrimination or some executive. This is a young lady who had done what the media and people say you are supposed to do–you go forward–and people didn’t believe her. Regardless of whether we recover all of the money or just one penny of it, I can tell you, that for her, having the jury believe her meant everything.”
Follow Bill Cresenzo on Twitter @bcresenzonclw
VERDICT REPORT — SEXUAL ASSAULT
Injuries alleged: Pain and suffering and emotional distress
Case name: Caroline Cox v. Lewis Charles Jewett
Court: Mecklenburg County Superior Court
Case No.: 19-CVS-1316
Judge: Forrest Bridges
Date of verdict: Feb. 18
Special damages: $450,000 (punitive) $322,275 (personal injury)
Attorneys for plaintiff: Kevin Murphy and Sean Herrmann of Herrmann & Murphy in Charlotte
Attorney for defendant: Pro se