Fired Baylor Employee Sues Law Firm

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Apr 8, 2017

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A former employee of the Baylor athletic department has sued Pepper Hamilton LLP for negligence and defamation as part of its investigation of the Baylor football team’s sexual assault scandal.

The Firing

Tom Hill worked for the Baylor athletics program for 28 years, beginning as a track and field coach and working his way up to his position as an associate athletics director for community relations as special projects. Hill was fired amid the school’s sexual assault scandal. 

Hill has stated that he had no involvement in the scandal or with any of the football players who were accused of sexual violence. He said, “I want my name cleared of being associated with this ordeal. … I want my integrity to be restored, my reputation to be restored and the facts behind why I was fired. I want to know why they fired an innocent man. I want Baylor to be transparent.”

The Lawsuit

Hill sued the law firm of Pepper Hamilton LLP for committing negligence and defamation as part of its investigation of the Baylor football team sexual assault scandal. Hill filed his lawsuit in McLennan County District Court. The lawsuit names Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP and its partners Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie M. Gomez as defendants. 

Gomez and Smith led a nine-month investigation of Baylor’s handling of sexual assault allegations and concluded that there was a “fundamental failure” in Baylor’s Title IX implementation and a football program operating “above the rules.” Pepper Hamilton presented its findings orally to the board of regents. There was no written report.

The board of regents voted unanimously to reaffirm Pepper Hamilton’s findings.

Hill accuses the defendants of negligence and defamation, alleging that that Pepper Hamilton failed to obtain important witness testimony and pertinent facts in its investigation. Hill is seeking $60,000 in lost income.

The complaint alleges that, “Defendants did not give an appropriate, accurate, complete and unbiased report of all facts necessary for the university to properly understand the true nature of any potentially inappropriate culture or social environment at the university. … As a direct result of the negligence of the defendants in carrying out their contractual obligations, serious collateral damage was done to several university employees, including plaintiff.”

Hill previously filed a petition in Dallas County requesting access to all documents and information uncovered by Pepper Hamilton as well as the reasons he was fired. Hill withdrew that petition in September. Hill’s former attorney, Rogge Dunn, has said that Hill was offered a $34,373 severance package with the stipulation that he agree not to make negative statements about Baylor or the football program, but Hill rejected that offer.

The Response

Attorney for Hill, Don Riddle, has said Pepper Hamilton’s findings are “negligent, at best. … It’s just a straightforward suit for negligence in the investigation and negligence in the reporting of the findings, and a claim of defamation.”

Pepper Hamilton released a statement saying, “The suit has no merit and Pepper will vigorously defend the suit.”

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