January 19, 2017

Students Settle Suit Prompted by Sexual Assault Accusation

A male student (“John Doe”) has reached a settlement with a female student (“Jane Doe”), who he claims falsely accused him of sexual assault. John Doe is also still suing the University, claiming sex discrimination under Title IX in the ongoing case.

The plaintiff John Doe filed a suit against the University on August 24, claiming that his Title IX rights were violated. Title IX is a federal statute that prohibits gender-based discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funds. John Doe claimed in his suit that the University created a “gender biased, hostile environment against males,” which John Doe experienced after having been accused twice of sexual assault by two students, co-defendant Jane Doe and another student (“Jane Roe”). Roe, who made a complaint about John Doe to the University in 2014, is not a defendant in the case.

According to court documents filed last week, Jane Doe and John Doe have reached a “mutually satisfactory settlement” which, upon the filing of an amended complaint, would dismiss Jane Doe as a defendant in the case. Terms of the settlement are not public.

The case between John Doe and the University is ongoing. The University will have until February 9 to respond to John Doe’s complaint.

Roe told University officials that John Doe had sexually assaulted her in 2014. A College disciplinary hearing that May found that “preponderance of the evidence did not support [her] allegations,” according to a letter from then-Dean of Students Kathleen Ford to John Doe.

In May of 2016, John Doe directed a play on campus. Students protested the play and promoted a boycott. One protester told the Maroon her response to the play was “about supporting survivors, boycotting events put on by perpetrators of sexual assault, and accountability in RSOs.” Earlier that day, Jane Doe tweeted that the show’s director had assaulted her and other people on campus.

The tweet became the central exhibit in John Doe’s lawsuit against Jane Doe. In June of 2016, lawyers for John Doe sent Jane Doe a cease and desist letter that demanded an apology and retraction on social media accounts. Later that month, Jane Doe filed a Title IX complaint, saying that John Doe had sexually assaulted her in 2013. John Doe then filed a second Title IX complaint with the University, alleging that Jane Doe’s complaint was retaliatory.

He filed the lawsuit in August. The suit sought damages from Jane Doe for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The tweet in question was still on “Jane Doe’s” account through at least late August. At the time of publication, the tweet appears to have been removed.

In October, all the parties jointly motioned to extend the deadline for filing an answer or motion to dismiss from late October to January 10. One document stated that Jane Doe’s reason to postpone was that the University’s internal investigations into the matter were to be settled by November or December, and that this decision would affect the nature of the parties’ arguments.

On January 9, John Doe and the University filed a joint motion asking to extend the deadline for the University to answer or motion to dismiss from January 10 to February 9. The document stated that at a December 22 hearing, the parties announced that the University proceedings had ended and that John Doe and Jane Doe were in the process of finalizing settlements. Shortly thereafter, the settlement between John Doe and Jane Doe was reached.

On January 10, Judge Edmond E. Chang granted the joint motion, extending the University’s answer deadline to February 9. If the University does not respond, John Doe will file an amended complaint, which the University must respond to by March 3.

At the December 22 hearing, the parties had announced that John Doe and the University would proceed with settlement negotiations. John Doe had provided the University with a requested settlement proposal.

Jeremy Manier, University spokesperson, stated that he does not have information on the timing of the end of the suit or the end of the internal University investigation. “The University typically does not comment on pending litigation or individual student matters,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Maroon.

Jane Doe’s lawyer could not be reached for comment. One of John Doe’s attorneys, Eric Rosenberg, said in a phone call with The Maroon that he agreed to speak with his client, but would not be able to do so before press time.

Judge Edmond Chang ruled in August that the case will continue to be conducted using pseudonyms for the plaintiff and female defendant, per the plaintiff’s. The Maroon chose not to identify them because John Doe is a plaintiff in a defamation lawsuit, and reporting his name might further this alleged defamation, and because Jane Doe alleges that she is a victim of sexual assault, and The Maroon, like many media organizations, does not report the names of alleged victims of sexual assault without the victim’s permission in cases when the victim’s name is not widely known.