Paying plaintiffs' legal fees would take Line Mtn. over $100K insurance coverage threshold
MANDATA - Line Mountain School District would surpass the threshold for legal fees covered in its insurance policy if a judge rules it must pay the attorney fees for the plaintiffs in the female wrestler lawsuit it continues to fight in federal court.
The district paid a $10,000 deductible to its provider, Liberty Mutual, upon the claim being filed by Brian and Angie Beattie on behalf of their daughter, Audriana, last April. From there, the provider covers the next $100,000, whether that be the district's own attorney costs or those of the plaintiffs, or settlement costs.
School board President Troy Laudenslager said Friday he wasn't certain, but estimated the district has spent about $30,000 thus far on its own accord beyond the deductible.
The Beatties, after being granted a preliminary injunction in which a
judge essentially ruled in their favor, but which the district can still contest through a trial, filed a motion to have the district pay its legal fees to the tune of $140,682.
In a response filed Thursday, the district's attorneys called those fees "outrageous." They asked the court to reduce the amount of hours billed and the rates charged.
With Laudenslager's estimation of $30,000 spent, that would leave another $70,000 before the district would have to begin paying. That would leave another $70,682 toward the Beatties' fees, as they are now, and doesn't count the district's own growing bill for legal services - including, ironically, the cost to fight the plaintiffs' fee payment request.
The district pays $62,598 annually for insurance coverage, which includes property, crime, general liability, professional liability, automobile and others.
In the Beattie case, Line Mountain is represented by attorneys Christopher Conrad and Nicole Ehrhart, from Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin in Camp Hill. The Beatties are represented by Abbe F. Fletman, of Flaster/Greenberg PC and Terry L. Fromson, of the Women's Law Project.
The lawsuit was filed after the district opposed Audriana, a seventh-grader, joining the junior high wrestling team, arguing the sport is gender-specific. The Beatties said the decision violated equal rights clauses of the state and federal constitutions.
Audriana had wrestled for Line Mountain's elementary program, but last school year her parents were told of the district's gender-specific policy that would prevent her from competing on the junior and senior high levels.
The issue came to a head in April when the Beatties confronted the school board. With no resolution, they filed for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.
A federal judge granted both - a temporary order on Nov. 1 and the preliminary injunction on Jan. 13. The orders have allowed Audriana to continue wrestling with the district program until the case is resolved, either by settlement or by trial.