State News

Appeals court allows Duke lacrosse coach's suit

Posted September 1, 2009 10:05 a.m. EDT
Updated September 2, 2009 9:55 a.m. EDT

Mike Pressler, the former coach of the Duke lacrosse team

— A North Carolina appeals court has cleared Duke University's former lacrosse coach to pursue a slander lawsuit against the school and its former spokesman.

The Court of Appeals decided Tuesday that a trial court correctly ruled that Michael Pressler's obligation to arbitrate his slander and libel claims was voided by his settlement agreement with Duke.

The settlement came after Pressler was forced to resign following a stripper's false accusations in 2006 that three players raped her at a team party. The three players later were declared innocent by state prosecutors.

The ruling means Pressler can pursue punitive damages and other penalties for disparaging comments he said former Duke spokesman John Burness twice made to the media. The settlement included a provision that neither side would disparage the other.

"This gives Mike the opportunity to go to court and prove he was slandered by Duke," said Pressler's attorney, Don Strickland. "Mike is pleased with the decision, and he's looking forward to vindicating his name in the Duke community and throughout the country."

Michael Schoenfeld, Duke's vice president for public affairs and government relations, said the university "intends to defend this case whether in arbitration or in the courts."