Baylor University officials are asking a judge to order six sexual assault victims identified in their lawsuit as Jane Doe to file separate lawsuits, saying their circumstances differed greatly.
In a motion filed in Waco’s U.S. District Court, Houston attorney Lisa Brown, who represents Baylor, asks Judge Robert Pitman to sever the claims of the six plaintiffs who have filed a Title IX lawsuit against Baylor.
Two more women asked to join the lawsuit this week, but Baylor is opposing their addition to the suit, and Pitman has not ruled on whether they can be added.
Waco attorney Jim Dunnam, who is representing the eight women with attorney Chad Dunn, of Houston, said Wednesday that Baylor’s motion goes against the school’s contention that it is trying to improve its response to sexual assault allegations and to be supportive of its students.
“Secrecy and protecting those responsible for Baylor’s admitted efforts to undermine and suppress sexual assault victims are all they seem to care about,” Dunnam said. “Making things harder and more expensive on these young women is certainly not a reflection of what Baylor should stand for.”
Patty Crawford, Baylor’s Title IX coordinator, resigned Monday and said some Baylor officials are more concerned about protecting the school’s brand than its students.
“The harder I worked, the more resistance I received from senior leadership,” Crawford said.
After Title IX reports increased sevenfold under her leadership, “it became clear that was not something the university wanted,” she said.
Baylor officials contend in the motion to sever that the six plaintiffs all have unique circumstances and that by trying them all in one case, it could confuse a jury and allow evidence to be admitted that might be proper for one plaintiff but inadmissible in another’s case.
“For example, two claim that they were assaulted in a dorm, while others claim that they were assaulted at private off-campus parties and bars,” the motions says.
“Some involved the police; some did not. One claims an assault by a football player, while the others have identified a former boyfriend, a co-worker or a student at a local bar. . . . These are factually different scenarios that require individualized factual development.”
The motion says the alleged incidents occurred between 2004 and 2014, and the assaults alleged by the two seeking to be added to the suit were in 2009 and 2015.
“Further, the regulatory framework applicable to a university’s obligations under Title IX has changed markedly since 2004,” the motion states. “As a matter of law, Baylor’s alleged actions and policies in past years cannot be evaluated in light of subsequent changes in the law. . . . It would be highly prejudicial to treat these incidents occurring over a span of a decade as if they were related transactions and to allow a single jury to hear evidence from all plaintiffs’ claims.
“Under the law, merely having a common defendant is not enough.”
Baylor has settled with at least one sexual assault victim, reaching a confidential agreement last year with a former student-athlete raped by Sam Ukwuachu, a former football player convicted last year in the 2013 incident.