Family and former co-workers of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno want to have a judge call the lawsuit against the NCAA done.
In documents filed in Centre County Court on Friday, the plaintiffs asked for a judgment on the pleadings on the four counts of its lawsuit that involve the NCAA.
At this point — after two amended complaints, dismissals of several plaintiffs in different stages, a variety of court rulings and the recent withdrawal of former trustee Al Clemens — the case stands with three plaintiffs and four defendants. Former assistant coaches Bill Kenney and Jay Paterno, the late coach’s son, are suing for defamation and tortious interference. Joe Paterno’s estate is suing for injurious falsehood and commercial disparagement. All three are suing for conspiracy.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs said they were asking for the judgment because the NCAA “has failed to comply with applicable rules, and in doing so, has by law admitted all of the material allegations” in the second amended complaint.
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That complaint was filed in October 2014. The NCAA filed its response on April 29, but the plaintiffs’ attorneys say the NCAA committed a faux pas in not responding to the specific allegations, giving just one-word statements of “denied” to a third of the document.
That, they say, is a problem as Pennsylvania courts have called that “insufficient responsive pleading, tantamount to an admission.”
“There is no excuse for the NCAA’s failure to comply with required Pennsylvania procedures. The NCAA has retained sophisticated and experienced counsel in this case,” wrote Thomas Weber. “The NCAA’s blanket denials are also highly prejudicial because they have left both the plaintiffs and the court with no understanding of what issues are actually in dispute and therefore would greatly expand the necessary discovery and interfere with plaintiffs’ ability to prepare their case.”
The case arose from the response of the NCAA and Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Paterno was fired in November 2011, shortly after Sandusky’s arrest, and died in January 2012.