Rape victims file new lawsuit against city, county for untested rape kits

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There’s a new twist in the legal battle between rape victims and the City of Memphis. Lawyers representing the class action suit dismissed their federal lawsuit and filed a civil lawsuit against the city, police department, Shelby County, and the district attorney.

Lawyers say this is a difficult case. Legal experts tell WREG the lawyers are going at this case the best way they can, but Tennessee law may be stacked against them.

It’s a case that all started because thousands of rape kits weren’t tested.

“That caused a significant serious emotional hardship to a great number of these rape victims,” Daniel Lofton, one of the two lawyers on the case, said.

He says their team is switching gears, but not giving up.

They know the real criminals in this case are on the street sexually attacking people, but they can’t ignore the fact that people are hurting because the city failed to do its job by leaving 12,000 rape kits untested for years.

“Rape kits with priceless irreplaceable evidence just laid to waste and just hopelessly mismanaged,” he said.

Originally, Lofton went after the city and county with a federal lawsuit, but dismissed that case last week. Now he’s accusing all involved of causing his clients emotional distress.

“We want this to be part of the healing process. And for there to be a higher standard put in force,” he said.

WREG reached out to Mayor AC Wharton’s office to get a comment from them about the new lawsuit.

His spokesman said, “They accurately realized they had no viable federal claims. The city will be seeking dismissal of the state claims, as well.”

The court this case will be heard in isn’t the only change. Now Lofton says all of the victims in the class action lawsuit can only net about $700,000 total for the case if they win, rather than the millions they could have pursued on the federal level.

Lofton says what ultimately needs to happen is the state needs to write new legislation to make the rules very clear about how to properly handle rape kit evidence, because right now that isn’t the case, which is what’s making their fight so difficult.

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