WKU lawsuit settled in May, four still pending

Trey Crumbie

WKU may have settled one of the lawsuits against it shortly after the end of the spring semester, but there are still four more cases pending.

President Gary Ransdell said he was not worried about the current pending cases and is focused on other issues.

“We’ve got a great record of succeeding in whatever cases we’ve had to address over the years, so I’m not worried about any of those,” Ransdell said.

The four pending cases are:

Elizabeth Esters. Esters, a former employee of WKU, filed a lawsuit following voluntary retirement. Ester alleges that a contract between her and WKU was breached. The lawsuit was filed on October 9, 2009. WKU filed for an appeal earlier this year.

Cheryl Lewis-Smith. Lewis-Smith, a former employee at WKU, filed a civil suit alleging her position was terminated due to her race and age. The lawsuit was filed on January 30, 2012. Discovery is in process. No trial date has been set yet.

Marilyn Gardner. Gardner, a current employee at WKU, alleges discrimination based on disability. The lawsuit was filed on May 24, 2011. Discovery is proceeding. Wilkins said that the trial date is scheduled for some time in 2014.

Whitney  Beckner. Beckner did not file against WKU, but against WKU’s employees as individuals. The initial lawsuit, filed on October 12, 2012, included two individuals, but was later amended to include eight additional employees. Beckner alleges injuries she suffered during her participation in the 2012 Miss Kentucky USA Pageant as a result of their negligence. WKU is defending the suit on behalf of the employees.

Deborah Wilkins, general counsel and chief of staff, said the Miss Kentucky Pageant and WKU were insured. Because of this, if there is a finding against WKU’s employees, the university will not be financially liable, nor will the employees, Wilkins said.

“So, really there’s no downside to someone filing a lawsuit,” Wilkins said. “If they win something, good. If they don’t, they haven’t lost anything.”