Mom’s Baseless Charges Against Baseball Coaches Spawns Defamation Suit

Oct 27, 2017

A Tennessee state court judge has permitted a $6 million defamation suit against the mother of a high school baseball player to move forward, finding she wasn’t protected from litigation when she publicly accused her son’s coaches of child abuse.
In so ruling, the judge noted that a plaintiff takes a significant risk when going outside the appropriate channels in making such allegations if the charges are ultimately found to be untrue.
As reported in Sports Litigation Alert earlier this year, plaintiff Sheri Super, the mother of the player, alleged that her son suffered multiple concussions in the months leading up to the baseball season when her son’s baseball coaches allegedly threw baseballs at players during a practice. The players were allegedly told they could not leave the batter’s box.
The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services opened an investigation last spring investigating the incident involving Hardin Valley Academy coaches Joe Michalski and Zach Luther.
Super, the mother of junior shortstop Ryder Green, told the media that her son and other players were forced to stand in the batter’s box while Luther threw the pitches and Michalski watched from first base during the drill.
The mother said that the impetus for the drill was a decision by a player to step out of the batter’s box during a March 8 scrimmage to avoid being hit by a pitch. Thus, during the practice, no one was allowed to leave the batter’s box until they were hit by a pitch.
“What makes me angry is that my son has had two concussions since May of last year,” Super told the media. “What if they would have accidentally hit him in the head? At that point we are talking about double vision and cognitive functioning, not whether he has a career playing at Vanderbilt.” Green has reportedly committed to play baseball for Vanderbilt University in 2018.
However, shortly after her comments, the charges were found to be baseless, leading to the lawsuit by the coaches.
Their attorney, Jeffrey Whitt, claimed Super gave up her protection when she decided to go public with accusations. He noted that rather than reporting the coaches to the police who could take action against the abuse, she instead wrote a letter to school officials. 
Whitt told the media that “the public should know that if you make a good faith referral within the rules of law, you will absolutely be protected. But if you go public, you lose those protections and you risk that if you’re wrong about the allegations, because they turn out to be untrue, you’ve got yourself on the hook – and that’s where we are now.”
The lawsuit seeks $3 million for each coach — $1 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages. But Whitt said that what they really want is their reputations back.
“What they would like is to be able to go back in time and undo everything that was said, everything that was done, have names and faces removed from social media and the papers,” he said. “But they can’t do that. What we can do is make effort to resolve this matter and put their good reputation back in form.”
The balls used during the drill were not real baseballs, but a lightweight “training” ball, according to the lawsuit, which added that a player, whose injuries Super had referred to in her allegations, had received the bruise from a real baseball during a scrimmage.


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