A Fredonia woman has fought back against her abusive husband by winning one of the largest monetary awards in a spousal abuse case in New York history.
Donna Nelson was awarded $10,280,000 by a Chautauqua County Supreme Court jury.
The judgment was returned Wednesday in Justice Joseph Gerace's court after a two-day trial.
Of the total, $3,750,000 was for punitive damages, another $4,100,000 was for pain and mental suffering and the rest was for medical expenses.
Attorney Kevin Laumer of the Jamestown law firm of Fessenden Laumer and DeAngelo, which represented Mrs. Nelson, called the verdict, the largest in Chautauqua County history, "a clear statement, not just to Michael Nelson, but to all abusive spouses, that this kind of senseless brutality will not be tolerated."
The civil suit sought damages for injuries Mrs. Nelson suffered in a brutal beating Jan. 9, 1992.
Nelson, who said he did not remember the attack, pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree murder and was sentenced in May 1992 by then-County Judge Lee Towne Adams to five to 15 years in state prison.
Testimony during the trial indicated Nelson went to his former wife's home, tried to strangle her with an electric cord, then beat her about the head and face with a dining room chair.
When the chair broke, he continued to beat her with pieces of the chair. The assault was witnessed by two of the couple's three children.
Mrs. Nelson was in a coma for two weeks with massive head injuries, cuts, and serious back injuries. A brain injury caused partial paralysis and amnesia. In her testimony, Mrs. Nelson said: "All I can do is hope and pray that my brain will heal, that my body will heal, and that I will have enough courage to make it."
Getting the award was one thing. Collecting it is another.
"We are not aware that any insurance is involved," said attorney Mary Barr of Fessenden Laumer and DeAngelo.
"We can only hope we can assist her in collecting the judgment as time goes by."
She said when Nelson gets out of jail, part of his parole will likely require that he get a job.
"We hope," she said, "that any income he comes into in the future we can get at to provide Mrs. Nelson with some kind of recovery."