Penn State’s attorney asked the court to dismiss former assistant football coach Mike McQueary’s $4 million whistleblower, defamation and misrepresentation claims made in a lawsuit against the university. Penn State’s objections were filed Tuesday morning.
In court documents, Penn State’s lawyer Nancy Conrad argued that McQueary can’t seek monetary compensation for defamation.
Penn State spokesman David La Torre wrote in a statement that the university has no comment on the pending litigation, other than the filing by the university that the objections to McQueary’s complaint to challenge the legal sufficiency of the claims.
McQueary’s complaint claims that he was defamed by the university, specifically former Penn State President Graham Spanier.
According to court documents filed by McQueary’s attorney, Spanier suggested McQueary was lying when Spanier expressed his “unconditional support” for former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former Interim Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz in a statement on Penn State Live.
According to court documents, McQueary argues Spanier’s statement infers McQueary lied when he told the grand jury that he reported witnessing former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky abusing a boy in the locker room showers in 2001.
Sandusky was later found guilty of 45 counts of sexually abusing young boys and is currently serving a 30 to 60 year prison sentence.
Conrad wrote that McQueary’s complaint “fails to identify any material facts to support a position that Spanier’s alleged statements infer or in any way suggest McQueary lied to law enforcement officials and committed perjury” to the grand jury investigating the claims against Sandusky.
McQueary requested $4 million of monetary compensation in his complaint, which Conrad wrote is based on “an allegation that President Spanier acted with actual malice and/or reckless disregard for the truth.”
Conrad wrote that McQueary’s complaint lacks enough facts to support a claim that “Spanier or Penn State acted with evil motive or in reckless indifference to the rights of others.” Consequently, his claim for monetary damage should be dismissed, Conrad wrote.
Conrad did not return a phone call requesting comment as of press time Tuesday. An administrator who answered the phone at the office of Elliot Strokoff, McQueary’s attorney, said Strokoff had no comment.
To support a defamation case, someone needs to show reckless conduct or harmful intentions, State College attorney Bernard Cantorna said.
“The important factors are what did the person who made that statement know when they made it,” Cantorna said. “That’s something the jury will need to consider. What did Graham Spanier know when he made that statement?”
In court documents, McQueary claims that Penn State discriminated against him and ended his employment because he cooperated with the Attorney General’s investigators and testified before the grand jury and at preliminary hearings for Curley and Schultz.
According to Penn State’s objections, McQueary’s complaint doesn’t specifically reference the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law or indicate McQueary’s asserting a claim under the law.
But Cantorna said McQueary’s complaint seems, on its face, a whistleblower claim because it included specific situations in which he said Penn State treated him differently after he went to police.
“If you lose your job, if you get punished, if you get treated differently because you have reported a crime to authorities, the whistleblower law says you can’t have an adverse employment action against you,” Cantorna said.
The judge will rule whether there are sufficient facts to support a whistleblower claim, Cantorna said.
McQueary’s complaint also claims that Curley and Schultz misrepresented that they thought the allegations against Sandusky were a serious matter and “would see that it was properly investigated.”
Conrad wrote that Schultz and Curley’s “alleged, unfulfilled future promises” don’t provide enough support for McQueary’s claim of representation, and the former administrators’ statements are too remote to cause McQueary’s alleged harm.