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February 21, 2008

30+ Duke Lax Players Sue For Emotional Distress, Vengeance

Is vengeance actually a cause of action? Eh, I'm sure they gussied it up in more appropriate legalese:

More than three dozen members of the 2006 Duke University men's lacrosse team and members of their families filed suit against Duke University, its President Richard Brodhead and other officials, Duke's medical center, and the City of Durham and city officials for emotional distress and other injuries in connection with false rape charges and a corrupt police investigation against team members in 2006.

...

The suit, filed today in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, said University officials remained silent even though they possessed convincing evidence of the players' innocence and also "lent credibility to the rape allegations by capitulating to an angry mob's demands to condemn and punish the innocent players and their blameless coach."

Chuck Cooper said the private university turned its back on the players to protect the school's image. "This lawsuit is born out of Duke and Durham's sustained wrongdoing and callous conduct against the players," Cooper said

...

Pamela Bernard, Duke vice president and general counsel, issued the following statement in response to the lawsuit filed by Attorney Chuck Cooper: "We have not yet seen the lawsuit, but if these plaintiffs have a complaint, it is with Mr. Nifong. Their legal strategy -- attacking Duke -- is misdirected and without merit."

Bernard statement went onto offer help to the families of the lacrosse players. "To help these families move on, Duke offered to cover the cost of any attorneys' fees or other out-of-pocket expenses, but they rejected this offer. We will vigorously defend the university against these claims," Bernard stated.

None of the lawsuits were filed against the woman who said she was raped. In the lawsuit filed Thursday, the accuser was called a "deeply mentally disturbed, drug-dependent young woman."

The amount of damages sought is unspecified and "to be established at trial."

Nifong wasn't named as a defendant... because he's about to declare bankruptcy. Boo-YAH!

Against Duke, their case seems somewhat weak; some of the allegations include the assertion that Duke had a "special" duty to the Lax players as student-athletes, which seems, what's the word, fucking crazy. I rather doubt that Duke actually had evidence the boys were innocent; the proof of that was Crystal Gail Mangum herself, and I doubt Duke had a chance to interview this bipolar crackwhore (or a duty to do so).

Duke behaved abominably, but I don't think they did so in any legally culpable manner.

Still, fuck it: I'd find in their favor, and I know this is mostly bunk. It's not always about legal technicalities and guilt and innocence.

Sometimes it's just about acting like a fucking cocksucker and needing to pay.

Thanks to Alice H.

Hmm... Some commenters point out that Duke's employees (independent contractors? not sure), the Professors United For Mob Justice, condemned the players. That's a fair point but I don't know Duke has an obligation or a right to stifle the speech of its iditotentsia.

steve_in_hb writes:

I seem to remember that one of the deans told the all the lacrosse players to talk to the cops and that it wasn't necessary for them to talk to a lawyer or tell their parents first. I believe the dean had her law degree.

Also, it seems very likely that the advertisement taken out by a bunch of the professors condemning the players and praising the lynch mob was payed for by at least one of the academic departments - in other words with school money.

The school also allowed the New Black Panthers on campus, non-students, who embarked on a pattern of physically harassing players while they were attending classes. Essentially, the school allowed an open season on its students without lifting a finger to protect them.

Okay, now fortified with that background, I'm reading the "Case Summary" and I see the specified allegations as follows and do see some of that here:

Against the Duke Defendants specifically the complaint, among other claims, alleges:

• Intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress based on the false and misleading information about the medical and physical evidence of rape provided by Levicy to the Durham Investigators that spurred on the rape investigation, the active suppression of exculpatory evidence, conduct and statements that maligned the lacrosse players and active conspiracy with the Durham Investigators and Supervisors.

• Breach of various duties of care owed the plaintiffs including the duty of care in conducting and reporting of forensic medical examination and the duty to warn of the hazards created by the Duke Defendants in providing false and misleading information to the Durham Investigators and not disclosing exculpatory information in their exclusive possession.

• Fraud, negligent misrepresentation, abuse of process, and violations of fourth amendment rights based on Duke University’s disclosure of confidential key card reports to the Durham Investigators in violation of FERPA and Duke’s attempt to cover-up that illegal disclosure by collaborating in the issuance and use of a sham subpoena.

Fraud through abuse of the confidential relationship between various Duke Defendants and the lacrosse players during the rape hoax crisis when defendants advised team members not to tell their parents and not to seek or obtain legal representation and by steering the players to Duke’s chosen
advisor, Defendant Wes Covington.

• Breach of duty based on Duke’s special relationship with its student athletes. Duke failed in its duty to seek to protect these students from harassment, harm to their reputation, a rogue criminal investigation

Breach of contract for Duke’s failure to follow and enforce its own antiharassment policy, cancellation of the lacrosse season, violation of
procedural rights.

I gave it a quick and dirty -- as in, "movement" dirty -- reading and that stuff flew by me. There's a lot of weak tea crap in there, but it seems there are some legally cognizable claims made. ("Cognizable" is legal term meaning "awesome.")



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posted by Ace at 06:32 PM

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