PHILIPPI — A Barbour County jury found that Alderson Broaddus University was 30 percent liable in its supervision and retention of former coach Collins Murphy, who secretly photographed female student-athletes in the dorm in which he was the residence director.
The jury awarded the plaintiffs $806,000 in damages, $800,000 of which was compensatory damages to be divided between Alderson Broaddus and Murphy to pay and $6,000 in punitive damages against Murphy.
Murphy confessed in 2014 to hiding the camera in the dormitory's bathroom and taking nude photos of the four female plaintiffs without their knowledge in December 2011.
Burbick Hall, Alderson Broaddus University | Wikimedia Commons
Murphy was fired in 2012 for job performance issues and relocated to South Carolina. Later, he shared the photos with a former men's basketball player and/or uploaded them to the Internet.
Because of the statute of limitations on invasion of privacy in West Virginia, Murphy could not be charged for his actions.
The plaintiffs, Kristin Burnside, Cayla Rhodes, Erica Brooks and Emily Sarver, filed their lawsuits against Alderson Broaddus in 2015 in Barbour Circuit Court, alleging that the university was negligent in retaining, supervising or training Murphy. The Barbour County jury agreed that the university was liable, but only 30 percent.
Murphy is liable for the other 70 percent.
Stephen New, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, recently appeared on MetroNews "Talkline," where he said he was pleased with the jury's verdict.
"I’ve never been more proud as a lawyer to stand with clients in front of a jury and make a case for them," New said on the show. "These are four wonderful young ladies. And, yes, they are proud that the system worked the way that is was designed to work in a very emotionally charged case and a difficult case on a lot of legal issues."
Alderson Broaddus filed a document in Barbour Circuit Court requesting that the judge rule that the plaintiffs could not seek punitive damages from the university.
The plaintiffs' claims, "cannot just rely upon conduct that is reckless to support their claim for punitive damages," the university's attorneys wrote in the filing.
"Thus, plaintiffs' claims for negligent retention, supervision or training, which just involve mere negligent conduct, cannot be used to support a claim for punitive damages against ABU."
Alderson Broaddus says the plaintiffs failed to prove that the university engaged in conduct that would satisfy the requirements for punitive damages assessed against it.
New was joined by Tammy Bowles Raines, David Grunau, Steven Bragg, Gabrielle Mucciola and Scott Maddox in representing the plaintiffs.
Tiffany Durst, of Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe, and Susan Deniker of Steptoe & Johnson represented Alderson Broaddus.
Murphy was represented by John R. McGhee Jr. and Lindsay M. Gainer of Kay Casto & Chaney.
Barbour Circuit Court case numbers: 15-C-34, 15-C-35, 15-C-36, 15-C-37