Rodriguez can move forward on fraud claim, judge rules

By Steve Korris | May 8, 2008


MORGANTOWN - Former West Virginia University football coach Rich Rodriguez can proceed with a fraud claim in his $4 million dispute with the university, Monongalia Circuit Judge Robert Stone ruled May 1.

Stone denied a motion to dismiss a counterclaim that Rodriguez filed after the university sued him to enforce a buyout clause in his contract.

The university tried to invoke a rule prohibiting evidence that would alter a plain written contract, but Stone held that a fraud charge creates an exception to the rule.

Rodriguez's attorney, Sean McGinley of Charleston, alleges that the university breached his contract by breaking oral promises that accompanied the contract.

The university sued Rodriguez Dec. 27, eight days after he resigned to coach the University of Michigan, to enforce a buyout clause in his contract.

McGinley filed a counterclaim Feb. 1, alleging breach of contract and six other counts against the university.

McGinley claimed university officials broke promises to increase salaries of assistant coaches, renovate a training center, start a website and let athletes keep their books.

He claimed WVU President Mike Garrison told Rodriguez that if he left, the university would reduce the buyout to $2 million.

The university moved to dismiss all seven counts, and Stone held a hearing April 3.

Stone's order preserved the breach of contract count and two similar counts.

Stone dismissed counts of invalid penalty, lack of mutuality, and failure of condition precedent, noting that these were affirmative defenses and not causes of action.

He reserved a decision on the seventh count, "monies due and owing," until Rodriguez accounts for monies he received under the contract.

In a separate May 1 order, Stone ordered Rodriguez to produce tapes, e-mails, notes and other documents from meetings with university personnel last August.

Stone also ordered Rodriguez to produce contracts or other documents between him and the University of Michigan.

Stone denied a university motion to compel production of any agreement for any person to indemnify or pay a portion of the $4 million.

"How a party is going to pay a judgment is not an issue in this case," Stone wrote.

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