Court Revives SDSU Coach’s Wrongful Termination Suit

May 11, 2007

Just when San Diego State University officials thought they had put a wrongful termination lawsuit brought by its former strength and conditioning coach to rest, the school is back on the firing line.
An appellate court judge reversed a trial court’s ruling dismissing Coach Dave Ohton’s case, finding that the plaintiff should have secured a writ of mandate before the trial court could properly consider the pre-trial motion to dismiss the case. In short, the writ would indicate whether the university’s investigation of his claims was made in good faith.
Ohton, who was fired in August of 2003, claimed in his lawsuit that “members of San Diego State University’s administration and staff violated Government Code section 8547 and retaliated against one of their colleagues because he cooperated with investigations into SDSU’s athletics department.” Section 8547 guarantees protection against retribution for state employees who report work-place violations.
In addition to Head Football Coach Tom Craft, Ohton named the university and the California State University system as well as the following administrators as defendants: athletic director Gene Bartow, defensive coordinator Thom Kaumeyer, director of football operations Dave Powroznik, vice president for business and financial affairs Sally Roush and director of human resources Sue Blair.
The defendants moved for summary judgment. In granting the motion, Superior Court Judge William R. Nevitt held that CSU met its responsibilities when it investigated the plaintiff’s retaliation claims, which were made after Ohton sought protection under the California Whistleblower Protection Act. Ohton appealed that ruling.
“We agree with Ohton that the court erred in finding that (the school) satisfactorily addressed his complaint,” wrote the panel of judges from the Fourth District Court of Appeal.
Ohton was represented by attorney Dennis Schoville, while SDSU was represented by attorney Eric Volkert.
David Ohton v. Board of Trustees of The California State University et al.; Ct. App., 4th Cir., Div. 1; D046617 (Super. Ct. No. GIC825574); 3/16/07


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