Local News

Duke attorneys seek dismissal of lawsuit against university

Posted April 12, 2016

— Attorneys representing Duke University faced a judge Tuesday and asked him to dismiss a lawsuit against the university.

Duke and Executive Vice President Tallman Trask are being sued by Shelvia Underwood, a parking attendant who claims Trask hit her with his car and called her by a racial slur in 2014.

Last week, several students camped out in protest inside the Allen Building, the school's main administrative building, demanding the firing of three administrators, including Trask, as well as a $15 minimum wage for all campus workers.

Those same students attended Tuesday's motion hearing.

"We are not going away," said Cindy Li.

Attorney Dan Hartzog said the university should not be a part of the suit.

"I'm not here to talk about whether or not Tallman Trask bumped into (Underwood) with his car, or whether or not he used a racial slur," Hartzog said. "That's between (Underwood) and Tallman Trask."

Underwood says the university and its police department conspired with Trask to cover up the incident, preventing a fair investigation into the matter.

"The lawsuit she has against Duke University is for two things - obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice," Hartzog said.

He pointed out an agreement Underwood signed, saying the investigation could end if Trask apologized to Underwood, which he did.

"She signed the document. He apologized, and that should be the end of that discussion," Hartzog said.

Hartzog worked to make a clear distinction between Duke and Trask several times in court, but student protesters say they hope the university is not left off the hook.

"That distinction doesn't exist," Li said. "Tallman is the executive vice president."

A decision is expected to be made Wednesday.

Neither Trask nor Underwood was in court Tuesday.


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