Judge denies plea to dismiss OU sexual harassment lawsuit

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — A judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit accusing the University of Oklahoma’s Board of Regents of negligence in its handling of a sexual harassment case.

Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman ruled Thursday the case filed by Levi Hilliard involves a “mixed question of law and facts” that should be decided in future legal proceedings, The Norman Transcript reported. Balkman, however, did dismiss a portion of the lawsuit that sought punitive damages against the university.

Hilliard, a former server at a university restaurant, says former OU Vice President Jim “Tripp” Hall III made sexual advances towards him on multiple occasions. He says Hall “patted him on the buttocks” during the fall 2017 semester and pinched his nipples at the university club where Hilliard worked.

In his lawsuit, Hilliard says the regents’ officers or agents breached their duty by failing to follow university policy about sexual harassment reporting and investigations. He is seeking in excess of $150,000 for alleged sexual assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional duress and negligence.

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OU attorney Michael Burrage argues the regents have immunity in the case based on the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act, which allows any board, college or university and associated entities to retain their sovereign immunity from claims of negligent supervision, retention and training.

Burrage also said most of Hilliard’s claims are untimely and do not meet the statute of limitations under the law.

Clark Brewster, Hall’s attorney, described Thursday’s hearing as “an early round” in the lawsuit.

Rand Eddy, Hilliard’s attorney, says his client is “excited” about the judge’s decision but that he acknowledges university lawyers may appeal.

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