UPDATE: Defendants in OHS federal lawsuit ordered to respond - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Defendants in OHS federal lawsuit ordered to respond

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: Channel 3 is learning more about the federal lawsuit filed by three former Ooltewah High School employees.

District Attorney Neal Pinkston, former Hamilton County schools superintendent Rick Smith and representatives of Hamilton County schools, Department of Children's Services and Hamilton County were summoned Wednesday by a federal judge. 

The complaint centers on how officials handled the investigation into the rape of a basketball student in 2015.

Judge Leon Jordan also ordered that the group must meet before any motions to dismiss the case are filed. He also issued an order saying it is unlikely that the court will allow the sealing of documents in the case.

"It is highly unlikely that the Court will place entire motions and their supporting documents under seal. To do so would eliminate from the public record all bases for any ruling upon the motion by the Court thereby eviscerating the public's First Amendment right of access," wrote Jordan.

"Government tort actions are always hard. They're always uphill battles for plaintiffs," Robin Flores, an attorney said.

Flores who is not connected to the case says it's a tough one to prove. 

The three former Ooltewah High employees claim negligence, wrongful termination, and defamation among other accusations. 

"When you look at it, you got a statute of limitations issue coming up with some of the claims. You've got immunities that are there," Flores said.

The complaint says Hamilton County Schools through its superintendent "misrepresented information, policies, and procedures."

It names Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston and accuses him of seeking "nothing but publicity" in the case.

The suit also demands money for the wives of the three former employees. 

Flores calls this a personal injury case and says that approach is common. He uses a car wreck as an example.

"It may even put more of a burden one or the other spouses that has to take care of the other injured spouse. So, it's not unheard of. It's a novel approach in this case," Flores said.

All three men are asking for more than $2 million a piece for damages,$100,000 for each of their wives and all court costs. 

The group summoned to court is asked to respond to the lawsuit in 21 days. 

"If you fail to respond, judgment by default will be entered against you for the relief demanded in the complaint. You also must file you answer or motion with the court," the order states.

Stay with WRCBtv.com for continuing coverage of this story. 


PREVIOUS UPDATE: Hamilton County Schools have responded to the federal lawsuit filed by three former Ooltewah High School employees. 

Immediately following the incident in Gatlinburg, HCDE’s Central Office worked to learn what had happened in the cabin and how OHS coaches had responded to the situation.  HCDE spoke to these coaches but also relied heavily on reports from the Gatlinburg Police Department and the Sevier County District Attorney’s Office.  The administration concluded that HCDE’s employees had acted appropriately.

Weeks later, however, the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office reported conflicting information and even charged three OHS coaches with having failed to report child sexual abuse in violation of Tennessee law.  Although this information was vastly different from what HCDE had learned from law enforcement officials in Sevier County, the HCDE administration followed Tennessee law and suspended these employees pending our DA’s investigation.

While HCDE understands the turmoil that these Plaintiffs have endured, their Complaint blames HCDE for having been stuck in the middle between two district attorneys’ offices.  HCDE simply followed the law and Board policy by suspending Nayadley and Montgomery when they were charged.  When Nayadley’s charges were dismissed, HCDE then restored his back pay.  Montgomery has not received back pay because he is still under investigation by DCS.

Regarding Jarvis’ transfer at the end of the 2015-2016 school year, HCDE does not comment on personnel matters except to say that the administration’s decisions are based upon legitimate, non-discriminatory considerations.


PREVIOUS STORY: Three former Ooltewah High School employees have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that they were treated badly by the Hamilton County Board of Education following the 2015 sexual assault of a student at a basketball tournament in Gatlinburg.

The plaintiffs in the suit are former principal James Jarvis, former athletic director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley and former OHS coach Andre Montgomery.

READ MORE | Ooltewah sexual assault

The complaint names the Hamilton County Board of Education, Tennessee's Department of Children's Services, Hamilton County District Attorney's Office DA Neal Pinkston and former Hamilton County School Superintendent Rick Smith.

The three men filed the lawsuit along with their respective wives. 

Several references to Smith and his management style were called into question in the lawsuit.

Smith's timeframe for reporting the sexual assault to the School Board was also called into question in the lawsuit.

The charges were dropped against Montgomery and Jarvis, while Nayadley had the charges expunged. 

All three men are asking for more than $2 million dollars in damages for the "emotional trauma and suffering and humiliation" from being arrested, booked and detained during the case. The lawsuit also seeks $100,000 dollars for each of their wives and attorneys fees.

DA Pinkston's handling of the case came under fire in the lawsuit, which accused him of not upholding his duty of protecting the innocent.

The entire 33-page lawsuit is below:

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