Lounge Legal Dept.: Latest on Big Ben Sexual Assault Case

Jeremy Clark is an attorney and a Steelers fan. He also runs the Lounge Legal Department. On today’s docket: the latest in the Ben Roethlisberger sexual assault civil suit.

Take it away, Jeremy…

So now that football is actually back and we are all discussing the important issues, such as our perpetually suspect o-line, I am sure what you all want to do is read some more legal mumbo jumbo. Well I’m happy to oblige!

The latest legal news with our beloved Steelers has to do with Big Ben’s trial in Nevada. I know, I almost forgot about that one too. As a brief recap, Ben is accused of sexually assaulting (raping) an employee at the Harrah’s Hotel in Lake Tahoe. An interesting fact here is that the accuser never filed a police report so this is a civil case. She also apparently sent an email before the alleged rape that seriously undermines her case.

The problem for Ben is twofold: A) this is a civil case so the burden of proof is lower, and B) he got really stupid in Georgia a year later. As an aside, I would like to propose we ban all Steelers from the state of Georgia during the off-season.

So what happened here was Ben’s attorney wanted to move the trial to another, more Ben-friendly, county. The procedure for doing this is to file an objection stating that the plaintiff’s choice of venue is improper (under the rules) or inconvenient for the defendants. The Nevada Supreme Court (way to really delay the case by appealing this issue, Ben!) dismissed the inconvenience argument by basically saying Ben was already from out of state so it’s no big deal for him to travel to either county. The improper objection, on the other hand, gets a bit technical.

For a person to pursue any legal issue in any court they must have what we lawyers call “standing.” Standing requires someone act improperly, which causes an injury, and an ability of a court to right the wrong (more boring info on standing here). For example, say this season Carson Palmer is relaxing on the beach when Kimo von Oelhoffen walks by and, not looking, falls onto Carson’s knee. The wrong was Kimo not looking where he was going, the injury is Carson’s blown knee, and the remedy is the expected earnings Carson will lose because of his injury.

The Court stated that, as Ben was from out of state, he lacked standing to challenge the location as violating the state rules because for out-of-state defendants venue is proper in any county. It is only residents of Nevada who could challenge a plaintiff’s selection as improper. As there was no improper act towards Ben in the choice of county (i.e. violation of the state’s rules) he could not challenge the selection — or in legalese he “lacked standing.”

So what does this mean for the rest of Ben’s case? Well, the case is moving forward now, but we still have a long time until this gets to a trial. The wheels of justice grind slow — particularly when you can afford to pay really good attorneys lots of money to stall. I doubt this trial would be ready during the upcoming season. (Though it might give me something to write about next off-season).

The next step for the case is discovery. This is where each side gets to request documents and interview all potential witnesses under oath in an effort to gather evidence. A fast discovery timeline is 90 days and this will not be fast.

I know Ben is determined to clear his name in this case, and that email is awful for the Plaintiff, but I think Ben should just settle this case and move on. Prior to his bathroom romp in Georgia I thought he would win this case hands down, but now it’s probably a closer call.

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  • Rob D

    Thanks for the informative update. Just got back from vacation and was wondering about this issue.