Can students sue a coach or school administrators for abusive conduct?
Basketball coach Bob Knight is legendary for winning championships — and throwing chairs. While his controversial, combative style may have coincided with wins for Indiana, similar behavior by others can lead to big losses. A recent settlement involving another coach, this time at Rutgers University in New Jersey, shows how abusive behavior on a basketball court can result in a costly out-of-court settlement.
Lawsuit Alleged That Coach Subjected Player to Physical and Psychological Abuse
The discrimination and abuse case involved Derrick Randall, a varsity basketball player at Rutgers who suffered from learning disabilities. The plaintiff claimed that Coach Michael Rice abused him both physically and psychologically, grabbing, kicking, shoving and berating him, causing him to suffer from debilitating fear and loss of confidence.
Accommodations Made for Player’s Learning Disabilities May Have Led to More Mistreatment
The federal lawsuit also alleged that Rutgers knew of Randall’s learning disabilities and offered accommodations. These arrangements further angered the coach and exacerbated his abuse of Randall. The coach was dismissed when videos revealed him shouting slurs and throwing basketballs at players. Randall ultimately transferred out of the school. In his lawsuit, Randall named the coach and other athletic staff as defendants, as well as a number of Rutgers administrators
Defendants Try to Settle the Case Quietly
Without admitting wrongdoing, Rutgers sought to settle the case confidentially out of court. But while the settlement’s confidentiality clause prevented the parties from discussing the case, it did not prevent the terms of the agreement from becoming known. Settlement agreements involving lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant often must be made public.
Randall received $300,000 in exchange for not pursuing his claim in court. Rutgers also had to pay thousands to cover Randall’s expert witness fees.
Not all victories are won in court. With a strong claim and solid evidence, a plaintiff who is willing to go to trial may not need to. If you have been abused or bullied, or if you have been harmed by others in another way you feel may be actionable, an experienced litigator can advise you on the best strategy for recovering the damages you deserve, in or out of court.