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Web update: Judge rules former student's case against U. can proceed

Some claims against U. and administrators dropped

A federal judge has denied Brown's motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by William McCormick III against the University and top administrators, ruling that, if true, his complaint demonstrates actions that "could be considered outrageous, atrocious or utterly intolerable conduct on the part of Brown."

McCormick, a former member of class of 2010, brought suit last fall against the University following a 2006 accusation of rape made against him by a female student and his subsequent departure from Brown.

McCormick maintains the accusation was made falsely and that, partly because the female student's father is an alum and major fundraiser for Brown, the University failed to properly investigate the claim and actively interfered with his ability to exonerate himself.

"The University and its officers have acted appropriately in this matter," Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations Marisa Quinn wrote in an April 12 e-mail to The Herald.

Joseph Cavanagh, a lawyer for the female student and her father, who are also both named as defendants, argued at the April 12 hearing on motions to dismiss that an agreement made between McCormick and the female student in the fall of 2006 prevents McCormick from taking legal action against her.

In the agreement, which has been challenged by McCormick, he agreed not to take legal action against the female student, and the female student agreed not to take legal action or pursue criminal charges against him.

The Herald is withholding the female student's name because she may have been the victim of a sex crime.

J. Scott Kilpatrick, McCormick's lawyer, argued that the agreement was made under duress, pointing to an e-mail sent by Cavanagh which the complaint calls "a thinly veiled threat of criminal rape charges," a characterization which Cavanagh denied in court documents.

Kilpatrick also argued that precedent shows an agreement not to bring false criminal charges is not valid.

Rhode Island District Court Judge William Smith, who issued the order Wednesday did not yet rule on the motions to dismiss counts against the female student and her father.

In Wednesday's order, Smith dismissed McCormick's claim that he had been falsely imprisoned as well as a libel claim. He also dismissed counts brought by McCormick's parents for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and breach of contract.

The judge denied a motion to dismiss McCormick's complaint of negligence against the University, but ruled that claims of negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress against individual Brown employees could not go forward.

Following Smith's order, McCormick's claims of infliction of distress, negligence and breach of contract against the University will move forward. The last remaining complaints against individual University employees — claims of breach of contract which the University motioned to have dismissed — were not mentioned in Smith's ruling.

The lawsuit can now proceed to the discovery period, in which evidence will be gathered. Smith expedited Wednesday's ruling because several witnesses will be graduating this month and leaving the state.


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