Log In


Reset Password
News Local News Nation & World New Mexico Education

Jury awards victims of Durango bathroom voyeur $3.5 million in damages

Weeklong civil trial accused business owner of invasion of privacy

A jury awarded three woman and a man $625,000 each in noneconomic damages to be paid by Wade Allen Bigall, 60, and his business, for placing a hidden camera in a unisex bathroom at his business.

The jury also awarded a total of $1 million in actual damages, with the amounts varying slightly between plaintiffs, said Matthew Campbell, one of the Durango attorneys who represented victims in the case.

“All of the plaintiffs are extremely happy with the jury’s verdict,” Campbell said. “We’re going to seek to have it upheld in its entirety, because we want to send a message, and the plaintiffs believe the jury did send a message.”

According to the Durango Police Department, Bigall took photos and recorded short video clips of the four in various states of undress while in the bathroom at Element Window + Door located at South Camino del Rio, Suite 200 in south Durango. The business is owned jointly by Bigall and his wife. The jury’s award of punitive damages stipulates that it will be paid 50-50 between Bigall and the business.

A jury awarded $625,000 in damages, to each of four victims caught in various states of undress by a video camera hidden in bathroom, during a civil trial that ended Friday. Durango business owner Wade Allen Bigall and his business must split the damages 50-50.

The incidents took place between June 1, 2020, and March 9, 2021. The civil trial was held the week of Nov. 14-18 in 6th Judicial District court in Durango.

Bigall pleaded guilty during a criminal phase to four counts of invasion of privacy for sexual gratification, all misdemeanors, in a plea agreement with the 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office on Jan. 28.

A plea agreement originally called for Bigall to serve 10 days in jail, but District Judge Todd Norvell rejected that agreement saying it didn’t send a strong enough message compared with the harm suffered by the victims.

The District Attorney’s Office returned with a plea agreement calling for 45 days in jail, which Norvell accepted June 3. He served 38 days with the remainder given as credit for good behavior. Bigall is now less than a year into serving five years probation. He is a registered sex offender and is required to complete court-recommended therapy. He also paid $6,000 in fines and court costs at the time of the accepted plea agreement.

Bigall’s defense lawyer, Ryan Brungard, said in court before the acceptance of the plea that Bigall had a “flirtatious affair” with an employee and become addicted to the infatuation, which led to the escalation of placing a hidden camera in the bathroom.

Brungard noted that Bigall pleaded guilty to four counts of invasion of privacy for sexual gratification, but that the sexual gratification only applied to one of the victims.

Bigall had no previous criminal history. In a brief statement to the court at the time of the plea agreement Bigall apologized to the victims and referred to himself as a good person who made a big mistake. Through tears he added that he had “deep regrets” for his actions.

The damages awarded by the jury itemize different amounts based on different charges for each victim. In only two instances do the individual amounts assessed by the jury, which can then be doubled under the Colorado statute for punitive damages, add up to $625,000 or more when doubled.

“Colorado law speaks to the appropriateness of punitive damages in any given situation in a civil case,” Brungard said Wednesday. “And also the limitations and caps on punitive damages if there is going to be an award. Because that is ongoing that’s a number that I anticipate may be subject to change based on some additional litigation.”

Colorado law governs when punitive damages are awarded and basically when it is appropriate if at all, and then the amount, Brungard said. And there are a handful of different things that can cause that to fluctuate either up or down or be reduced to zero.

“I don’t know what is going to happen here, but I anticipate there will be some additional motions on that,” he said. “It’s an issue that certainly we intend to take up.”

The amount of damages awarded by the jury shows they “determined that he needed to be punished more than what has already occurred, whether in the criminal case or otherwise,” Brungard said.

gjaros@durangoherald.com

An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect figure for how much money was awarded to the plaintiffs, because it did not take into account “actual damages” awarded to the plaintiffs.

Reader Comments