Ludlow’s Lawsuit Against Northwestern Dismissed


Peter Ludlow’s legal claims against Northwestern University (previously), which included a Title IX claim, defamation and false light publicity claims, and a civil conspiracy claim, have all been dismissed, according to a ruling from Judge Sara L. Ellis of the US District Court (Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division). From the ruling:

Northwestern University professor Peter Ludlow, the subject of two sexual harassment investigations involving both a graduate and an undergraduate student, brings this suit against Defendants Northwestern University (“Northwestern”), Morton Schapiro, Alan Cubbage, [grad student], Jennifer Lackey, and Joan Slavin claiming that Northwestern’s investigation of sexual harassment allegations against him in 2014 violated Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., and that Defendants’ comments associated with the 2012 and 2014 investigations defamed him and placed him in a false light. Defendants move to dismiss all claims [27, 29]. Because Ludlow has not sufficiently pleaded that the alleged discrimination had any connection to his gender, the Title IX claim against Northwestern is dismissed. Ludlow’s defamation and false light publicity claims against Northwestern and Cubbage are dismissed because the alleged statements are substantially true. The defamation and false light claim against Schapiro are dismissed because the statements attributed to him are either not highly offensive or are substantially true and, in any event, are non-actionable opinion. The false light claims against Slavin and [grad student] are dismissed because Ludlow has not sufficiently pleaded the publicity of those statements. The defamation claim against Slavin is dismissed because the statements attributed to her are either true, not highly offensive, can be innocently construed, or are non-verifiable opinion. Any claims related to statements by Lackey made in 2012 are barred by the one-year statute of limitations for defamation and false light claims. And the counts related to her 2014 complaint to the General Counsel are dismissed as too vague and ambiguous to support a claim. The defamation claim against [grad student] is dismissed because the statement was made under a qualified privilege and abuse of that privilege was not sufficiently pleaded. Finally, because all possible independent torts have been dismissed, Ludlow’s civil conspiracy count is also dismissed.

UPDATE: A redacted version of the judge’s opinion is here (the “notification of docket entry” simply stating the result is here).

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J.Bogart
J.Bogart
6 years ago

The order permits amendment, so it may be that there will another round.Report

joy
joy
6 years ago

let’s hope not.Report

drongo hobbes
drongo hobbes
6 years ago

Lying doth never prosper: what’s the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it lying.Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
6 years ago

I think it’s worth noting that for the purposes of ruling on the motions to dismiss, the judge presumed the facts were as Ludlow alleged in his legal complaint, and was further obligated to draw all reasonable inferences from those alleged facts in the plaintiff’s (i.e., Ludlow’s) favor. From the order: “The facts in the background section are taken from Ludlow’s Complaint and are presumed true for the purpose of resolving the Defendants’ motions to dismiss. See Virnich v. Vorwald, 664 F.3d 206, 212 (7th
Cir. 2011).”Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
6 years ago

@drongo Hobbes:

Without any intended comment on the substance of your comment (I’m not actually sure what point you’re trying to make), and just as a point of style: if you’re going to adapt that classic couplet, at least preserve the form. I suggest:

A lie doth never prosper: ask me why? Why, if it prospers, none dare call it lie.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

Kathryn Pogin’s point is so important that it’s worth repeating. By dismissing Prof. Ludlow’s complaints, the court effectively asserted a conditional: EVEN IF every statement in the plaintiff’s complaint is true, the case is not one a court has the power to deal with. So, if Prof. Ludlow’s complaint says X, the court’s opinion will be written as if X were true, even though no evidence regarding the truth or falsity of his claims has been considered.

As members of the profession, we should keep this in mind: the court considered no evidence regarding the truth or falsity of any of Prof. Ludlow’s claims about either Prof. Lackey or [PhD student]. Nothing in the court’s opinion constitutes evidence for or against Prof. Ludlow’s claims about our colleagues.Report