In New Jersey, the state that litigates valedictorian decisions (Jun. 30), Jennifer Besler blamed her high school basketball coach’s request for her to lose ten pounds for an eating disorder that has lasted over eight years. A Mercer County jury found her damages to be $3 million, and held the school district responsible for 49% of them–with possible punitive damages still to be calculated. “The jury also awarded Philip Besler, Jennifer’s father, $100,000 because then school board President Lester Bynum gaveled him into silence as he tried to speak at a January 1997 school board meeting.” The defense lawyer has noted that the Besler family’s complaints about the coach began when Jennifer lost her starting position on the team. The school district will appeal, but meanwhile has already shelled out for a four-month trial. (Linda Stein, “$1.5M coach-suit verdict”, Trenton Times, Mar. 25; Lisa Meyer, “Jurors get Hussong case today”, Trentonian, Mar. 16; Lisa Meyer, “Lawyers argue over jury instructions”, Trentonian, Mar. 2). Maybe the former coach can get a job counseling the plaintiffs who blame McDonald’s for their obesity.
Update: Jury declines to award punitive damages; Mr. Besler reveals that he spent $1 million on case (thus showing who the real bully is). (Mark Perkiss, “Coach vows to fight verdict”, Trenton Times, Mar. 26; Lisa Meyer, “Beslers speak after decision”, Trentonian, Mar. 26).
Update: Judge throws out $1.5 M verdict (Apr. 9).