Wednesday, March 26, 2014

College faces lawsuits from fired faculty, injured student

By Bridget Slone
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Two lawsuits were filed against Midway College within days of each other this month, one by seven former faculty members, the other by a former student.

The faculty lawsuit was filed March 11 by Lexington attorney Debra Ann Doss on behalf of Richard Berry, 61; Eric Bolland, 66; Stephen Clark, 65; Francis Fletcher, 61; Teresa Isaac, 58; Wendy Hoffman, 57; and Saleem Mirza, 52. It accuses the college of age discrimination and breach of contract.

The lawsuit contends that the faculty members had extensive experience and qualifications in the areas they were assigned to teach and had received positive evaluations, but at the time of their contract terminations, the college hired people who were “substantially” younger than them and were lesser qualified in terms of “experience and/or education” to perform assignments they were performing, or were eligible to perform.
The suit says all seven were presented with annual contracts of employment in May 2013 for positions as full-time faculty members for the 2013-14 academic school year. However, in September, the seven received letters from the college informing them that “due to alleged financial hardships” it was terminating its contract on the grounds of lack of “available funding,” the suit says.

The college said in September that it had terminated about 12 faculty members’ contracts and suspended contributions to faculty members’ retirement accounts in order to balance its annual budget after suffering an 18 percent decline in enrollment.

The members dispute the college’s stance, citing multiple grounds. All seven taught in the School of Business, which “as of September, 2013, was, and had been for years, the division with the highest enrollment and which provided a positive cash flow for Midway College,” the lawsuit states.

They also argue that the college had $5.7 million in temporarily restricted assets that could be used for any purpose, along with unspecified “substantial assets” from which funds could have been derived to satisfy the college’s contractual obligations.

The lawsuit alleges that the college “violated the express provisions of its own Faculty Handbook” by failing to avoid premature terminations of the contracts by not pursuing less drastic measures. It says the college “violated its own written procedures for reduction in force, and its duty of good faith pursuant to its contracts with Plaintiffs, by failing to consider seniority, special skill and abilities, and job performance” as well as not involving the faculty in any discussions pertaining to their alleged financial hardship.

The suit also alleges that the college violated its “reduction in force procedures” by terminating Clark and Mirza’s appointments immediately without the minimum 30 days’ notice.

Hoffman, who was a full-time faculty member, had also served as the college’s athletic director for seven years, according to the lawsuit. The position was converted to full-time in fall 2013 and although Hoffman applied, the college hired a significantly younger, less qualified individual, the suit alleges.

The suit seeks unspecified monetary compensation for lost wages and benefits as well as embarrassment, humiliation and, emotional and psychological distress.

Student lawsuit

Amanda Wagner, a former Midway College student, filed suit against the school March 13, alleging that an instructor’s April Fool’s Day joke caused her severe and permanent injuries.

According to the suit, on April 1, 2013, Wagner was in a horse riding class taught by head dressage coach Mandy Alexander, who decided to play an April Fool’s Day joke on her students, saying all of them must either tell a joke or “walk, trot and canter on their respective mounts without stirrups.”

The suit says Wagner told Alexander that she had never cantered without stirrups and she did not feel comfortable attempting it, but Alexander restated to Wagner that she could either do that or tell a joke, and Wagner eventually followed Alexander’s instruction and rode without stirrups on a horse named “Dutch.”

The suit tells the rest of the story this way: Wagner “had no problems holding her balance while she was walking, trotting and even cantering on Dutch.” However, when Alexander signaled to Wagner that she had done well enough and that she could stop, the horse sped up. Alexander then told Wagner to “sit up tall” and when Wagner followed the instruction, the horse started galloping, and when Wagner and Dutch rounded a turn close to the gate, Wagner fell off the horse.

The suit alleges that due to Alexander’s negligence Wagner suffered severe and permanent injuries, including a fractured pelvis and injuries to her lower back.

The suit, filed by attorneys David and Seth Thomas of Nicholasville, asks for unspecified monetary compensation for Wagner’s current and future medical expenses as well as her emotional and physical suffering.

Ellen Gregory, the college's vice president for marketing and communications, did not respond immediately to a request for comment.


Jon Smith said...

So Ms. Wagner completed the exercise and was told she could stop. Then the horse takes off. How is this a lawsuit? It was her coaches fault because she was trying to make it fun? She doesn't know a joke? She could have not gotten on a horse and then it would have been prevented! I hope she didn't earn a degree since she can't figured out that horseback riding is dangerous.

There is a real need for penalties for these frivolous lawsuit that are filed everyday.

Jon Smith said...

So Ms. Wagner thinks it is someone else's fault because she fell off a horse. She completed the exercise and was told she could stop. The horse bolts and she falls off. How is that anyone fault? It was an accident! Her coach is at fault because she tried to make the lesson fun? I'm sure her coach has taken more than a few falls in her career. She doesn't know a single joke? Maybe she can enroll in clown college next. Oh wait getting crammed into the little car with her classmates would be a sexual harassment lawsuit in the making. Sounds like she might need some more equestrian classes, since horseback riding is dangerous!

This is why we need repercussions for frivolous lawsuits.

Anonymous said...


Not sure if you ride horses or not, but this isn't the movies. People don't go around riding horses bareback anymore. Most likely due to safety reasons. hence the unfortunate accident that occurred here. There was trust involved and it was broken. The instructor should not have given authorization for this and should have kept safety first, not amusement.

Jon Smith said...

The exercise is a common one used to develop balance, strengthen your legs, and to help you learn to get a deeper seat. This has nothing to do with the old west. This was a dressage class.

It also seems you missed the main point. It's called personal responsibility. She could have refused to participate. No one can make you ride a horse.

Anonymous said...

Why didn't she just tell a joke?