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1. Dorrance case could set legal precedence
by Paul Kennedy, April 13th, 2007 5:37PM



A federal appeals court has ruled a jury should hear the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former North Carolina player Melissa Jennings against her coach, Anson Dorrance.

Jennings accused Dorrance of sexually harassing team members by asking about their sexual activity.

The decision, from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., comes nine years after Jennings and another player, Debbie Keller, sued Dorrance, the university and officials who dealt with harassment accusations. Keller's portion of the case was settled in March 2004.

(Click here for the opinion.)

In October 2004, U.S. District Court Judge N. Carlton Tilley Jr. had dismissed Jennings' lawsuit. A three-member court of appeals also found again in favor of UNC, Dorrance and company, but a rare review by the full court overturned Tilley's summary judgment as it related to Jennings' Title IX claim, saying sufficient facts existed for Jennings to have her case heard by a jury.

In the 8-2 decision, the court ruled that "Jennings has proffered sufficient facts for a jury to find that Dorrance's degrading and humiliating conduct was sufficiently severe  or pervasive to create a sexually hostile environment."

Legal experts suggested the case could create new law in the area of sexual banter, its boundaries and how Title IX applies.

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