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Civil lawsuit filed against ND

Meghanne Downes | Friday, April 2, 2004

The former Notre Dame student who accused four former Irish football players of sexual assault has filed a civil lawsuit against the players and the University, seeking an unspecified amount of damages for the incident that occurred two years ago.The 22-year-old woman and her parents filed the suit without a lawyer and are listed as “Jane Doe” and “Mr. and Mrs. Doe” on court documents to protect their privacy.The suit alleges that the woman suffered physical pain and post-traumatic stress, had to legally change her name and incurred medical bills and lost income due to the March 28, 2002 incident involving Lorenzo Crawford, Donald Dykes, Abram Elam and Justin Smith. The woman and her parents are seeking damages from the players for alleged emotional distress and income loss. The Observer was unable to contact the woman, her parents or the former football players. The former players were expelled from the University in May 2002 and then-St. Joseph County Prosecutor Chris Toth filed criminal charges against the players. A jury convicted Elam of sexual battery and acquitted him of conspiracy to commit rape and criminal deviate conduct August 30, 2003. Another jury acquitted Dykes of rape, conspiracy to commit rape and sexual battery, prompting special prosecutor Maureen Devlin to drop the pending criminal lawsuits against Crawford and Smith.The civil lawsuit also alleges the University had a duty to protect the woman from the alleged criminal acts of the players.University spokesman Matt Storin declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing University policy.According to the lawsuit filed in St. Joseph County Superior Court, the woman and her parents are seeking damages to send a message “to deter these defendants and others.”Notre Dame law professor G. Robert Blakely said the burden of proof is lower in a civil case than in a criminal case and a plaintiff in a civil case must only prove there is a “preponderance of evidence” to be awarded damages.Blakely said it will be difficult for the plaintiffs to be awarded damages from Notre Dame because they have to show what the University could have done to protect her and prevent the alleged incident from occurring. “I suppose they are looking for a deep pocket,” Blakely said in reference to why Notre Dame was listed as a defendant in the suit.Without legal representation, Blakely said they have a better chance of succeeding against the former players than Notre Dame.”If they don’t have a lawyer willing to bring the suit, getting the University involved is not to their advantage … No one in his right mind brings a case without a lawyer,” Blakely said.Last fall, a jury awarded a former Saint Mary’s student $1 million in damages in a civil suit filed against another former Notre Dame football player, Clifford Jefferson, alleging he sexually assaulted her. In that case, the woman had legal representation, but Jefferson did not. A federal civil suit filed by the former Saint Mary’s student is currently pending against Notre Dame.