GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The female students molested by former Major League Baseball player Chad Curtis got a boost in their effort to sue both him and the school district that employed him.
The civil trial, slated to begin in federal court next month, will decide if Lakewood Public Schools leadership acted to protect the girls from the abuse they suffered or instead stood behind the popular coach.
Three former student-athletes at Lakewood High School testified against Curtis in 2013 when Curtis was found guilty of six criminal sexual conduct charges against the 15 and 16-year-old girls for which he has served four years of a seven to 15-year sentence.
They are seeking $4 million, plus attorney fees.
The Gus Harrison Correctional Facility, just north of the Ohio border, is a far cry from the days when Chad Curtis played for the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees — or even when he was coaching sports for the Barry County school district.
A judge has yet to determine if he will be allowed to travel to the Grand Rapids federal court where the case will come before a jury on May 30.
In the three years, the case has been making its way through the system, Curtis has appeared via video.
In a blow to attorneys for Lakewood Public Schools, Judge Janet Neff has denied the district’s request to keep evidence out of the trial, including the fact that at least one schoolboard member was aware of the inappropriate conduct.
According to court records, Curtis told former board member Brian Potter in May 2012 that he had kissed one of the teens and was “inappropriate” and just “liked everything about” the child.
Not only did this board member fail to disclose the information to police, he continued to publically support Curtis and met with the family of teens advocating for Curtis, court documents state.
Potter resigned from the board in November 2015.
In addition, the suit claims the school leadership failed to heed the complaints and warnings about the actions of Curtis prior to the criminal investigation.
The jury will also be able to hear evidence about alleged harassment the girls suffered at the hands of other students following their disclosures. The defense will be able to explore the actions and character of the teens.
The girls also are accusing Curtis of intentional infliction of severe emotional distress and claim the school district failed to properly train staff.
The judge has already ruled that Curtis inflicted battery on the girls and will allow the jury to determine damages.
It’s expected the girls, their parents and school officials will have to testify. Curtis is acting as his own attorney.