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Paterno Family and Supporters' Lawsuit Says NCAA Caused 'Significant Harm'

by on May 30, 2013 1:30 PM

Including the Paterno family, there are 21 participants in the lawsuit filed Thursday against the NCAA.

All of the plaintiffs claim they sustained significant harm when the NCAA bypassed its bylaws and signed the consent decree with Penn State. That consent decree set the stage for the NCAA to impose harsh sanctions on Penn State and triggered a long-standing controversy.

The plaintiff's are suing for breach of contract, intentional interference with contractual relations, civil conspiracy, defamation and commercial disparagement.

The intent of the lawsuit, according to the complaint, is "to remedy the harms caused by the NCAA's conduct, to enforce the NCAA's obligations, and to put an end to Defendants' ongoing misconduct, as well as their misuse and abuse of authority." 

The Paterno family says any compensation or damages that are awarded as a result of the lawsuit will be donated to charity. 

Filed in Centre County Court on Thursday, the 21 Plaintiffs include Scott Paterno, who is representing both the Paterno estate and the Paterno family; Penn State trustees Ryan McCombie, Anthony Lubrano, Al Clemens, Peter Khoury and Adam Taliaferro; Penn State faculty members Peter Bordi, Terry Engelder, Spencer Niles and John O'Donnell; former Penn State football coaches William Kenney and Jay Paterno; and former Penn State football players Anthony Adams, Gerald Cadogan, Shamar Finney, Justin Kurpeikis, Richard Gardner, Josh Gaines, Patrick Mauti, Anwar Phillips and Michael Robinson.

The lawsuit says the NCAA committed "malicious, unjustified, and unlawful acts," which includes penalizing and irreparably harming the plaintiffs for Jerry Sandusky's crimes against children. Sandusky's criminal behavior was not within the NCAA's scope of authority and the NCAA was not within its rights to take action based on Sandusky's actions alone and not its own investigation, the complaint said. 

Representatives for the Paterno family, attorney Wick Sollers and spokesman Dan McGinn appeared Wednesday on the NBC Sports program "Costas Tonight". They told host Bob Costas, the NCAA suspended its own investigation and used the conclusions made in former FBI Director Louis Freeh's report to penalize Penn State with what NCAA President Mark Emmert called "unprecedented sanctions." has contacted the NCAA, asking for a response to the lawsuit, but the organization has not returned our calls or emails.

Paul Kelly, a Boston-based attorney with the firm Jackson Lewis LLP, is representing several of the plaintiffs. He says, "This legal action is all about fairness and due process and is brought on behalf of the entire Penn State community.

"My clients, the trustees, faculty and former players and coaches, believe that the NCAA took actions that were unprecedented, unwarranted and unlawful.

"Neither they, nor the victims of the reprehensible acts of one individual, have been afforded any process whatsoever. They had no choice but to resort to the courts since the NCAA acted in an area in which it had no authority, failed to follow its own rules, forcibly imposed an onerous result on innocent parties, and then refused to recognize any effort to appeal within the NCAA's own administrative process."

The full text of the complaint can be found here

Laura Nichols is a news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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