Baylor’s insurance carrier claims it is not liable for damages as 15 women attempt to settle lawsuits over sexual assaults

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Published: May. 26, 2023 at 5:01 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - As 15 women who reported they were sexually assaulted while students at Baylor University are attempting to settle their long-standing lawsuits, Baylor’s insurance carrier is asking a judge to rule it is not liable for covering any potential damages associated with Title IX violations.

Some of the lawsuits from Jane Does 1-15, as they are called in the lawsuits, have been pending almost seven years while Baylor officials and the women’s lawyers fought battles over disclosure of school records during a prolonged discovery process.

While mediation efforts are deemed confidential, Dallas attorney John DeGroote filed documents with U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman’s court in Austin indicating that the parties attempted to settle the case during a court-ordered mediation on May 8.

The mediation summary says only that DeGroote “is still actively assisting the parties in connection with the mediation.”

A Baylor spokeswoman said the filing was a requirement as part of the judge’s scheduling order. She declined comment on the lawsuit filed against Baylor by its insurance carrier, Lexington Insurance Co.

Lexington is seeking a declaration from Pitman that it has no duty to defend Baylor and that no coverage exists under the commercial general liability and umbrella policies issued to Baylor for Title IX claims asserted by Jane Does 1-15.

Lexington also claims it is entitled to a declaration that a sexual abuse exclusion precludes coverage for claims alleged to have occurred between July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2016, from Jane Does 1,3,4,8, 9, 10, 12, 14 and 15. Also, the company asserts, it is entitled to a declaration that no coverage is available for injury claims alleged to have occurred outside the policy periods as alleged by Jane Does 2, 5, 6 and 11.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys, Jim Dunnam, of Waco, and Chad Dunn, of Houston, filed a fourth amended petition after Pitman dismissed Texas state law claims for negligence and breach of contract following a federal appeals court ruling that the plaintiffs cannot recover damages for emotional distress under Title IX laws.

Pitman allowed the plaintiffs to amend their filings to include state law fraud, breach of contract, negligence and gross negligence allegations. The judge previously asked Baylor to reconsider its objection to the petition amendments “given that Plaintiffs seek to amend their complaint in response to an intervening change in law and not due to any delay on Plaintiffs’ part.”

“Additionally, Baylor cannot claim prejudice in good faith. Although this litigation has been pending far too long, the delays are largely due to Baylor’s discovery conduct, and yet the cases are still not on the eve of trial,” Pitman wrote.

The lawsuits were filed in the wake of a sexual assault scandal at the Baptist university and led to the ouster of Baylor Head Football Coach Art Briles and the removal of Ken Starr as Baylor’s president. Several of the assault allegations involved members of the Baylor football team and a fraternity president.

The 15 former Baylor students allege that Baylor maintained discriminatory policies in handling reports of their sexual assaults and failed to properly protect its students. They also allege those practices created a heightened risk for sexual assault.

The amended petition said the cases were spawned by Baylor’s “deliberate indifferent response to multiple events of student-on-student sexual assault and subsequent sexual harassment.”