A three-member Washington Court of Appeals panel says Sig Hansen's estranged daughter can sue him for sexual abuse she alleges occurred while she was a child.
A three-judge panel of the Washington State Court of Appeals has ruled that a civil trial can proceed in a lawsuit alleging Sig Hansen, a star of the reality TV show “Deadliest Catch,” sexually abused his estranged daughter Melissa Eckstrom.
Hansen said he’ll appeal the ruling to the Washington Supreme Court.
Hansen, the blunt-talking Norwegian-American skipper of the Seattle-based crabbing boat, the Northwestern, had tried to get Eckstrom’s lawsuit dismissed on grounds that he’d already been exonerated of the sex-abuse allegations during a 1992 divorce and custody trial.
But King County Superior Court Judge Suzanne Parisien last year denied his dismissal motion, citing since-established state law that allows childhood sex abuse victims to pursue civil claims into adulthood. Parisien agreed to have her ruling examined by the state appeals court, however.
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The court, in an opinion published Monday, found Eckstrom’s lawsuit isn’t a repeat of the 1992 litigation, which focused on whether Hansen could have visitation rights with his daughter after his estranged wife accused him of molesting the child. A judge handling the divorce and custody case previously had ruled no abuse occurred.
“The suit between the parents addressed Hansen’s right to have residential time with his daughter, whereas Eckstrom now raises a claim of personal injury damages,” the appeals court judges wrote in a nine-page ruling. The appeals court also found that because Eckstrom wasn’t a named party to the divorce and custody matter, Parisen’s ruling allowing her lawsuit to go to trial was proper.
“At the time, (Eckstrom) was too young to testify, too young to understand the nature of the legal proceeding,” the ruling said. “We conclude Eckstrom is not [prevented from suing] by the earlier finding that Hansen did not abuse her. She is entitled to her own day in court to try to prove that he did.”
Lincoln Beauregard, one of Eckstrom’s lawyers, said his legal team is “happy that our client will get her fair day in court.”
Eckstom, 30 and now a lawyer, never reconciled with her father. She contends in her lawsuit that she still harbors memories of Hansen’s abuse of her as a 2-year-old in 1990. Her lawsuit also includes various records to support her claims that had been sealed during her parents’ divorce and custody trial, including medical findings, a therapist’s evaluation and a state Child Protective Services supervising caseworker’s findings from the time of the alleged abuse.
In his statement Tuesday, Hansen, 52, said he was disappointed by the appeals court’s opinion, but he maintained the 1992 court ruling that he did not abuse Eckstrom was proper and should prevail. The statement also claims Eckstrom’s lawsuit is simply the latest attempt by her and her mother to extort money from Hansen.
“Each time they tried to extort me, I told them no; I take responsibility when I make mistakes, but I will not put up with these false allegations that a judge dismissed decades ago,” Hansen’s statement said. “We will appeal this to the state supreme court, and expect them to reverse the decision.”
Staff reporter Lewis Kamb contributed to this report, which contains information from The Seattle Times’ archives.