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Judge Dismisses Penn State, James Franklin From Former Player’s Hazing Lawsuit

A federal judge on Friday dismissed Penn State and football coach James Franklin from former player Isaiah Humphries’ lawsuit that claimed they neglected to protect him from hazing and sexual harassment by four teammates.

The decision comes after Humphries filed the lawsuit in January 2020 and three subsequent amended complaints that U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann wrote failed to show the university and coach were responsible and did not provide pertinent details substantiating the allegations.

“Humphries’ latest complaint must be his last complaint,” Brann wrote. “He’s had four tries. If he could have alleged facts to support his various claims, he would have done so by now. I therefore find that further amendment would be futile and that it would be improper to require Penn State and Franklin to defend against these claims yet again.”

Humphries, who enrolled at Penn State on a football scholarship in January 2018, claims that he and others were subjected to harassment and hazing by four players whom he alleges would wrestle teammates to the ground and simulate sexual acts, as well as place their genitals on or near the alleged victims, and take their clothes and not return them. He says they also made threats including “I am going to Sandusky you,” and that one player threatened Humphries with physical harm after he reported the alleged misconduct.

Penn State police investigated the allegations, and the Centre County District Attorney’s Office found no basis for criminal charges.

Of the four teammates named in the complaint, only one, former Penn State player Damion Barber, is listed as a defendant. Barber has filed a separate motion to have the lawsuit dismissed.

Humphries alleged that Franklin and other coaches took no action in response. Instead, he claimed, they unfairly evaluated his performance, “scorned” him, denied him playing time, had him participate in athletic drills designed to ensure he would fail, trying to get him to leave the team by offering a medical retirement option, having the team’s academic adviser censure him, and denying him a medical accommodation for anxiety and narcolepsy.

After Humphries announced his decision to transfer in November 2018, he alleged coaches spoke poorly of him to other programs. He ultimately transferred to the University of California in January 2019.

“…[F]or whatever his complaint possessed in attention-grabbing details, it lacked in substance,” Brann wrote.

“Despite numbering 105 pages, Humphries’ fourth complaint does little better than his third. Rather than delineating a timeline or clearly outlining his legal theories, his latest complaint is rife with vestigial references to arguments and documents that this Court has told him do not matter.”

Brann wrote that Humphries failed to demonstrate an underlying violation of Pennsylvania’s Timothy Piazza Anti-Hazing Law, noting that he did not show the alleged abuse was a requirement to be on the team and that two of the teammates he accused enrolled at the same time as him and two others were one semester ahead.

Humphries’ claim of a Title IX violation also failed because he did not show he was allegedly harassed because of his sex, Brann wrote.

The complaint also failed to establish a legal basis for a special duty of care for Penn State and Franklin, according to the memorandum of opinion.

“None of Humphries five theories show that Penn State or Franklin owed a duty to protect him,” Brann wrote.

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About the Author

Geoff Rushton (StateCollege.com)

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.

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