Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Litigation on Steroids - $1.2 MDV in San Diego

The Escondido Union High School District probably could not have gone to trial at a worse time given the recent drumbeat of news story on steroids in major league baseball. The facts pitted two coaches, one who blew the whistle on the other, claiming that the first coach recommended to a high school football player that he take a "weight gaining" substance if he wanted to get a Division I scholarship. It probably didn't help that one of the whistleblowing coach's witness was the athlete who testified that he was hospitalized after taking the substance. The jury found the coach reported the conduct and that the report resulted in him losing his job two years later. The result, Ex-Orange Glen teacher-coach awarded $1.2 million in job dispute .

But in reality it was not the drug angle that seemed to be the big issue with the jury. Two members were quoted as saying they "didn't see any intent to suggest illegal drugs." And another that "as a coach, he didn't tell the [hospitalized player] to do anything wrong."

So what was it that got to the jury? Maybe it was that the principal who decided not to renew the whistleblower's probationary contract was none other than the wife of the coach who had recommended the drink. It is not clear from the article what the defense argument was, but from another comment by a juror it appears it might have been that the wife/principal was unaware of the incident.

If so that didn't sit well, as the juror put it: "I found it hard to believe that a husband and wife would not communicate on that issue."

In hindsight, I bet that seems pretty obvious to the employer as well.


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