More than three dozen players who were never indicted in a 2006 investigation accused the university of fraud, negligence, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
In March 2006, Crystal Mangum claimed three white lacrosse players trapped her inside a bathroom at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd., where she was performing as a stripper at a team party, and raped and sexually assaulted her.
The university immediately ended the lacrosse team's season and forced the coach to resign, and investigators collected DNA samples from all of the players.
Mangum's story about the incident was so inconsistent that state officials later declared the players innocent, saying there was no credible evidence against them.
Duke had asked that it be dropped as a defendant in the suits, which also name former Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong and police investigators. A federal judge denied the university's request last month.
In its answer to the suits, Duke said the university, President Richard Brodhead and other high-ranking staff members did nothing illegal or improper. The players' allegations are based on a number of false premises, the university said.
Irving Joyner, a law professor at North Carolina Central University and a close observer of the case, said he believes third-party liability is a major part of the defense. Under that theory, Duke maintains that any wrongdoing was caused by Crystal Mangum and Nifong – two people not connected to Duke in any way.
"What they're claiming is that what they did was what they would normally do when confronted with this kind of situation and provided the information that was truthful as best they could provide it to these young men and did not do anything to harm them," Joyner said.
Duke previously settled lawsuits filed by the three players indicted and later cleared in the case.
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