Suit Against Bruce Nelson Settled

Abuse Victim Had Sued for Punitive Damages, Attorney’s Fees

Another legal battle has ended for Bruce Nelson, the man who was found guilty of committing lewd acts against patients at a brain rehabilitation center where he was working as a caretaker. A lawsuit against him by one of the victims was settled last month.

Bruce Nelson, a former Santa Barbara High assistant boys basketball coach who was sentenced to seven years in state prison in June 2008, had faced a lawsuit from one of the victims, a 43-year-old woman who suffered from brain damage. Also named in the suit were Solutions, the brain rehab center Nelson worked at, and Susan Hannigan, the center’s director.

Bruce Nelson
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman (file)

Bruce Nelson

In the lawsuit, the victim sought attorney’s fees and punitive damages “in an amount appropriate to punish and set an example” of Nelson, but the terms were not disclosed. “It’s a confidential settlement agreement,” said Eric Woosley, attorney for the victim. Woosley said the settlement was reached about a month ago.

The lawsuit alleged negligence, battery, sexual battery, breach of contract, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It details instances such as a time when Nelson allegedly told the victim they were going fishing, but instead took her to a bar and then to his home where Nelson made sexual advances, touched the woman in “a sexual and offensive manner,” and had sexual intercourse with the woman.

On two other occasions, the suit alleges, Nelson had sexual intercourse with the woman, when “she was unable to, and did not, give meaningful consent to the aforementioned acts.”

The woman was one of two victims in the criminal case against Nelson. The other was a 22-year-old former UCLA student who listed five separate occasions during which Nelson committed sexual acts that she neither wanted nor invited, including using his tongue to kiss her, inserting his fingers into her vagina, touching her breasts, forcing her to touch his penis, and attempting to have intercourse with her.

Defense attorney Steve Balash attempted to argue that the interactions were consensual before Nelson was found guilty in March 2008 by a Santa Barbara jury.

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Phone Scams Spike Countywide

Callers are claiming to be IRS and Homeland Security agents.

Longtime Fiesta Soldados Given the Boot 

Ousted Marc Martinez said Old Spanish Days has become "less inclusive."

Los Padres Forest Officials Ban Unpermitted Campfires

Wildfire conditions prompt caution.

County Out $2M Annually on Recycled Paper

A changing world market is to blame.

Electricity Bailout?

Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson squares off against Governor Jerry Brown.