Tort Law

U of Colo. to Pay $2.85M in Football Party Case

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The University of Colorado has agreed to pay $2.85 million to settle a lawsuit by two women who say they were raped in 2001 at an off-campus party attended by football players and recruits.

Hank Brown, CU’s president, said the settlement was in the best interest of the university, in a case that created a scandal and has already racked up $3 million in legal defense costs and could have dragged on for years, reports the Denver Post. He said none of the settlement money will come from state funds, and most will be paid by an insurance company. The school also agreed to hire an adviser concerning Title IX issues and increase staffing in its victim assistance office.

In the suit, the women “alleged the university violated federal law by fostering an environment that allowed sexual assaults to occur,” explains ABC News.

The lawsuit had been dismissed in 2005 when a federal judge found that the women had failed to satisfy a requirement of showing deliberate indifference. However, a three-judge panel of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated it in September, holding that there was evidence the alleged assaults were caused by the university’s inadequate supervision of players, and that what the plaintiffs needed to show was that the university ignored an obvious risk, according to these two articles. The full court declined in November to rehear that decision.

In a written opinion, the three-judge panel described some of this evidence, the Post notes. It includes, the newspaper recounts, “that in 1989, Sports Illustrated magazine contained an article about a number of sexual assaults by CU players; in 1990, two CU football players were charged with sexual assault arising from separate incidents; in 1997, a high school girl alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by a recruit at a party; and in 1998, then Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter and Assistant District Attorney Mary Keenan—the current DA—met with CU officials to express concerns about a pattern of sexual misconduct. At the meeting, Keenan expressed concern about women being made available to recruits for sex.”

The allegations in the case led to significant changes. A CU spokesman tells the Post that the university now “is a different place than it was six years ago. Eleven of our 12 administrative leadership positions are occupied by new people. We’ve implemented substantial reforms in inter-collegiate athletics and student safety.”

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