Idaho Vandals

Athlete’s lawsuit against University of Idaho survives court challenge, will proceed

The University of Idaho faces a lawsuit stemming from mistakes made handling a sexual-assault complaint from former diver Mairin Jameson.
The University of Idaho faces a lawsuit stemming from mistakes made handling a sexual-assault complaint from former diver Mairin Jameson.

A former student-athlete’s lawsuit against the University of Idaho under a “heightened-risk claim” will proceed after a judge ruled partially in her favor Wednesday.

Former Vandals diver Mairin Jameson filed a lawsuit in October 2018 over the Title IX mistakes the university made in handling her sexual-assault complaint against a football player in April 2013 and prior incidents. Some of those mistakes were uncovered by an Idaho Statesman investigation and subsequently confirmed by an independent investigation commissioned by the university. Athletic Director Rob Spear was fired by the State Board of Education after it reviewed the independent report.

U.S. District Court Judge David C. Nye dismissed Jameson’s claim concerning the university’s response to her sexual-assault complaint based on a two-year statute of limitations. Three other claims were dismissed without opposition because of jurisdictional issues.

The surviving claim, under heightened risk, wasn’t prevented by the statute of limitations because Jameson didn’t know until 2018 some of what transpired between the football player, Jahrie Level, and two other female students before her alleged assault, Nye ruled.

“We’re very pleased with it,” said Spokane, Washington-based attorney Brook Cunningham, who represents Jameson for Randall | Danskin. “… We survive on the claim that I think is the most important, which is that had they acted appropriately, she wouldn’t have been sexually assaulted at all.”

The University of Idaho declined to comment.

The university was informed in November 2012 that Level was involved in an incident that led to a female student being hospitalized with alcohol poisoning and severe bruising, and again in April 2013 when track athlete Maggie Miller reported to Moscow Police and the football coaching staff that Level threatened her. Jameson wasn’t aware of the 2012 incident until it was reported by the Idaho Statesman in 2018. She witnessed an interaction between Miller and Level but didn’t know the details of how it was handled.

“It is plausible that Jameson had no reason to further investigate her heightened-risk claim until after the release of the independent report and the subsequent media coverage in 2018,” Nye wrote.

Former University of Idaho President Chuck Staben told the Idaho Statesman last year that proper handling of the earlier incidents could have prevented Jameson’s alleged assault. Staben was president during the independent investigation but not when the 2012-13 incidents occurred. His contract wasn’t renewed by the State Board.

“In 2012, we had a concern about a student-athlete on our campus, Jahrie Level,” Staben said last year, “and had, at that time, the university taken a different course with him it is possible that all the 2013 incidents could have been avoided. But it’s a lot easier to see that in hindsight than in foresight.”

On Jameson’s dismissed “post-reporting claim,” her attorneys argued that the clock on the statute of limitations shouldn’t have started until the university’s independent investigation in 2018 detailed the mistakes made. However, Nye ruled that Jameson should have known in 2013 that she had a case.

“Jameson should have understood that UI had done nothing to help her or address her concerns,” Nye wrote in his ruling. “Jameson’s post-reporting Title IX claim accrued at the time she reported her assault to UI officials and experienced deliberately indifferent responses. ... In other words, Jameson’s post-reporting claim accrued when she knew of the injury that formed the basis of her federal claims, not when Jameson learned about her legal rights or additional facts about UI’s behavior from the independent investigation which would have bolstered her claims.”

Level, who is from Florida, was dismissed from the football team in May 2013 after the investigating police officer determined that surveillance video supported Jameson’s accusation. Level later was formally expelled from the university for seven violations of the Student Code of Conduct related to complaints from Jameson and Miller. Any criminal charge would have been a misdemeanor, according to the investigating officer, so the case died when Level left the university.

Jameson wrote publicly about her experience at UI in early 2018, as part of the #metoo movement. The Idaho Statesman’s reporting — and the university’s independent probe that followed — showed that the university didn’t follow established Title IX guidelines or university policy in the way the Level incidents were handled.

“We found there were a number of ways the university failed to respond appropriately to allegations of misconduct,” the independent investigators’ report concluded.

Nye’s ruling will allow Jameson’s attorneys to begin requesting documents and performing depositions, Cunningham said. A jury trial likely will be scheduled for late 2020 or early 2021, he said.

“I was just relieved,” said Jameson, who attended the oral arguments on the motions to dismiss in Coeur d’Alene. “I knew we had the statute of limitations against us, so I was happy to see that one (claim) stood.”

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