Duke Lacrosse Players Sue Duke University – Is This Going Too Far? Comments By Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher

Every time I speak to a group, I remind them that every choice has a consequence. (www.chuckgallagher.com) That has proven to be true in the unjust trial of the Duke lacrosse students and resulted in significant consequences for Mike Nifong – the former prosecutor. Apparently, however, the consequences for those directly involved were insufficient to give all involved a taste of what they might feel is a fair and just outcome.

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Today, 38 of the 47 members of the 2006 Duke University men’s lacrosse team brought suit against Duke University and a number of other people claiming a multitude of damages that they feel compensation is needed to resolve. The complaint, among other things 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 anti-harassment policy, cancellation of the lacrosse season, violation of procedural rights.

So what do these 38 people feel is a fair consequence to compensate for the pain and loss they feel they’ve incurred? According to the complaint, they have asked for damages to compensate for injuries to reputation, emotional suffering, past and future economic losses, invasion of privacy, constitutional deprivations, loss of educational and athletic opportunities, loss of future career prospects, legal and other expenses, and other injuries proximately caused and enhanced by defendants’ wrongful conduct; and for damages, in an amount to be established at trial, to punish defendants for fraudulent, willful and wanton, and malicious conduct; to punish defendants for outrageous conduct pursued with actual malice that recklessly and callously disregarded plaintiffs’ physical and emotional well-being and constitutional rights; to discourage defendants from engaging in similar conduct in the future; and to deter others similarly situated from engaging in similar wrongful conduct. The full complaint is listed here.

The suit was filed against Duke University, Richard Brodhead, Duke’s medical center, the City of Durham, and various city officials.

Consequences from the wrongful prosecution:

  • The three accused players reached an undisclosed financial settlement with Duke in June, but later filed their own federal civil rights lawsuit against Nifong, the City of Durham and the police detectives who handled the case.
  • Former Durham district attorney Mike Nifong, has since been disbarred and spent a day in jail for his handling of the case against the three players. Likewise, Nifong has lost his job and filed for bankruptcy.

Questions:

  • Are the claims made by the 38 individuals reasonable? Better, if it were you, would you expect compensation?
  • If the three players have had settlements, is this complaint a reach for deep pockets?
  • What do you think should be the outcome from such a massive suit?

Feel free to comment.

Business ethics speaker, Chuck Gallagher, signing off…

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