Motions to dismiss Roethlisberger case denied
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The Nevada judge handling the sexual assault lawsuit against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has dealt defense attorneys a setback by denying four motions to dismiss the case and possibly clearing the way for a future court date.
A 31-year-old employee of Harrah's Lake Tahoe filed a civil suit against Mr. Roethlisberger, accusing him of sexually assaulting her while he was staying at the hotel for a charity golf event in July 2008. Mr. Roethlisberger has denied the accusation.
The Post-Gazette does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.
The lawsuit also involves eight current or former Harrah's employees whom the plaintiff accuses of covering up the incident.
Second Judicial District Court Judge Brent Adams in Reno, Nev., ruled late Tuesday against four motions filed by Mr. Roethlisberger's legal team, led by William David Cornwell Sr., of the sports law firm DNK Cornwell in Atlanta.
A fifth ruling by the judge dismissed a claim of trespass against Stacy Dingman, one of the eight Harrah's employees, but likewise permitted that case to proceed.
Mr. Cornwell yesterday released a statement saying the legal team representing Mr. Roethlisberger remained "encouraged."
"Finding that plaintiff survived this round because of a generous 'beyond [a] doubt' standard indicates that, at these early stages, the court is inclined to give plaintiff her day in court," the statement said. "Of course, this cuts both ways.
"In any event, her allegations remain false and we remain committed to a vigorous defense."
Calvin R.X. Dunlap, attorney for Mr. Roethlisberger's accuser, would not comment when contacted yesterday by phone in his Reno office.
"We believe the court's orders speak for themselves," Mr. Dunlap said.
Among the motions that were denied was one by Mr. Roethlisberger's attorneys that there was no fraud.
The judge ruled "that the allegations, as made by the plaintiff, are sufficient to state a claim upon which relief could be granted." The fraud accusation relates to the accuser's claim that Mr. Roethlisberger said he needed her to come to his room to fix his television.
The judge denied a claim that the case should be dismissed for failure to join an indispensable party -- namely Harrah's Hotel and Casino, which was omitted from the original lawsuit.
"The court finds that the plaintiff's claims against defendant Roethlisberger do not require, nor are dependent on, any potential claims against Harrah's or its employees," Judge Adams said.
The judge also rejected the Roethlisberger team's claim that the complaint was unnecessarily salacious or graphic.
The fourth dismissal addressed the defense's motion to expedite discovery, saying that the case "will proceed in its conventional timetable."
Still, the case is likely a long way from going to trial. A number of filings remain to be ruled upon, and the defense also has more than two weeks remaining in which it can appeal the judge's ruling last month denying them a change of venue to neighboring Douglas County, where Lake Tahoe is.
First Published October 1, 2009 12:00 am