Marshall settles Perdue privacy suit for $81K, apology

By Lawrence Smith | Mar 18, 2011

HUNTINGTON – Marshall University has settled a lawsuit with state Treasurer John Purdue's daughter that includes both a payout and a formal apology from school officials.

Records show on Dec. 22, Emily Perdue formally settled the invasion of privacy lawsuit she filed against Marshall, and one of its professors, Laura Wyant, she filed in July accusing the University of improperly releasing her grades and transcripts to third parties on Sept. 25, 2009.

According to her suit, Perdue learned of the release through press accounts of an internal investigation the University was conducting into allegations incompletes she received in two independent study courses were changed. Wyant was her instructor for those courses.

The settlement was approved Dec. 29 by Judge David J. Pancake.

According to the settlement, Marshall via its insurance carrier, National Union Fire Insurance Company, agreed to pay Perdue and her attorney Michael Froble $81,250. Records do not indicate how Perdue and Froble, a sole practitioner in Beckley, split the settlement.

As part of the settlement, both Marshall and Wyatt wrote Perdue letters of apology. In one dated Oct. 25, 2010, F. Layton Cottrill Jr., senior vice-president for executive affairs and general counsel, said he was pleased the settlement was reached, and regretted "the situation involving your grades became a matter of such high public interest, and that it caused any hardship to your and your family."

"In no way should any actions or remarks of past or present employees of Marshall University be taken to imply that any improper conduct or undue influence was applied or attempted by you or any member of your family," he added.

In hers dated the next day, Wyant's letter mirrored much the same as Cottrill's adding that she never questioned the grades Perdue earned in her classes or she completed the coursework.

"To the extent that my comments or actions, made to clarify that I was not the instructor who completed the courses with you and awarded you the grades you received, has left the impression that I felt that you did not do the work or did not earn your grades, that was not my intention and for that I am sorry," she said.

According to the state Board of Risk and Insurance Management, Marshall incurred $13,917.70 in legal expenses defending itself in the suit. M. Andrew Brison, with the Charleston law firm of Francis, Nelson and Brison, was paid $3,838 for defending Wyant, and Cheryl Connelly, with the Huntington law firm of Campbell Woods, was paid $7,284.20 to represent the University.

Records show the last payout in the case was made to Connelly on Feb. 1.

Cabell Circuit Court case number 10-C-492

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