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No payment in Evansville suit

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GINA R. HEINE
October 27, 2009
— An Evansville mother and daughter dropped their federal lawsuit against the Evansville School District before Monday's scheduled trial, and the school district agreed to drop its claim for attorney fees.

Neither the school district nor its insurers will pay anything, District Administrator Heidi Carvin said.


"Nothing was paid," said Sam Leib, attorney for the school district. "We were ready to go to trial. This was a case that we felt very, very confident we were going to prevail. They walked away at the 11th hour."


The settlement came late Friday. A jury trial was scheduled to begin Monday morning, but the case was dismissed with prejudice, meaning it cannot be re-filed.


Jeff Olson, an attorney for the family, declined to comment on the details of the settlement.


Ivyanne Elborough and her mother, Deborah St. Aubin-Elborough, filed the suit in August 2008 alleging discrimination by football coaches and staff. Elborough was the only female player on the freshman football team in 2007.


Elborough broke her clavicle Aug. 30, 2007, after participating in drills without safety gear because she did not have access to her gear in the locked locker room, the suit alleged. The lawsuit claimed Elborough was injured because she was told to practice without safety equipment, even though the rest of the team was wearing gear during blocking drills.


The suit alleged head coach Ron Grovesteen discriminated against Elborough because she was female.


The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Madison asked for compensation for pain, suffering, mental and emotional distress and expenses but didn't specify an amount.


Earlier this year, Judge Barbara Crabb dismissed several of the suit's discrimination claims because they had no legal merit, Leib said. That left one claim relating to Elborough's participation in drills and injury. That claim was voluntarily dismissed Friday, he said.


"We've maintained all along, we feel horrible she was injured, but there was really no neglect on our part," Carvin said.


The Gazette was not able to reach the family for comment about the settlement.


The plaintiffs dropped the case, Carvin said, and the district dropped its claim for attorney fees "due to the frivolous nature of the suit." Had the case gone to trial, the plaintiffs and their attorneys faced payment of the district's legal fees and possible court sanctions if they lost, Leib said.


The district's legal fees amounted to more than $80,000 as of last week, Carvin said. Those costs are paid through the district's liability insurance, so no taxpayer money was spent, she said.


"The dismissal by the plaintiffs without payment is effectively an exoneration of my clients, and we are pleased that this matter has been dismissed," Leib said.


Carvin said she's proud of how the coaching staff handled the two-year case. The staff showed clarity and openness and answered every question with sincerity and integrity in the hours of depositions, she said.



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