HILTON HEAD, S.C. (WSAV) – A woman sued by her alleged rapist is now fighting back with a lawsuit of her own.
Tyler Erpelding filed a civil lawsuit against a woman we will call “Jane Doe,” claiming her accusations are defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and a conspiracy.
She says Erpelding is a rapist and deserving of criminal charges and potentially jail time.
Now both are suing each other in civil court even before the criminal case goes before a judge.
“This is the first time I’ve seen it in South Carolina and we would very much like to not see it again,” said Daniel Luginbill, the victim’s attorney. “Our firm would like to put an end to this tactic of intimidating rape victims.”
The alleged attack happened in March of 2018 when the pair met at a Hilton Head restaurant.
They both admit they left and were “making out” in a nearby wooded area. But the victim claims Erpelding then “pushed her against a tree” and while she “made him aware she did not consent to his actions,” Erpelding allegedly did not stop and he raped her.
In his lawsuit, Erpelding claims it was “consensual sex” and calls the claims of assault a “conspiracy” between the victim and the bartender.
Luginbill and Julia Flumian are Charleston attorneys who saw reports about Erpelding’s suit and offered to help the victim pro bono.
“She called by her own estimation 15 laws firms, could not find anybody,” said Flumian. “Law firm, after law firm would not represent her because they could not see any benefit in this to them and this is the kind of suit that we want to follow because the benefit is to everyone to file these kinds of lawsuits. This should not happen.”
The attorneys say Erpelding’s lawsuit was filed “In an effort to humiliate (Doe) to gain an advantage in an upcoming criminal trial.”
“When a victim does everything by the book, and better than most can do and is still questioned, there has got to be a stop to it. That’s a bridge too far,” said Flumian. “If his intent was to intimidate our client to gain an advantage in his criminal trial, he is sorely mistaken.”
“We are doing this, not just for this client, but this is a practice we don’t want to see take hold in South Carolina,” said Luginbill.
Erpelding was indicted by a grand jury in September on third-degree criminal sexual conduct.
His trial is expected in the next few months.
Decisions on the suit and countersuit are believed to have national implications as more alleged attackers are suing their victims long before a criminal case is ever put in front of a judge.