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Slander Lawsuit Against Duke Can Go to Court

Attorneys for Mike Pressler argued that a 2007 settlement with Duke nullified employment agreements that required employment disputes go to arbitration.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A judge on Wednesday denied a motion by attorneys for Duke University to force a slander lawsuit by its former lacrosse coach into arbitration.

Attorneys for Mike Pressler had argued that his 2007 settlement with Duke nullified employment agreements that required that employment disputes go to arbitration rather than to court.

Pressler is suing his former employer because, he claims, Duke's senior vice president for public affairs, John Burness, made defamatory statements about him – one being that Pressler was fired because "he had not adequately supervised his team," which was at the center of a high-profile criminal investigation.

Pressler was forced to resign on April 5, 2006, shortly after Durham police began investigating an exotic dancer's claims that she was raped at a lacrosse team off-campus party in March 2006.

In March 2007, he and Duke reached an undisclosed financial settlement, which Pressler claims Burness' comments violated.

Superior Court Judge Howard Manning's ruling Wednesday means the case can be pursued in court.

Pressler is now head lacrosse coach at Bryant University in Rhode Island.