For Pullman Radio News From Jacob Jones At Whitman County Watch
A judge has ruled a former Washington State University football player is entitled to damages in his 2018 lawsuit against former Head Coach Mike Leach and other WSU officials after the state Court of Appeals overturned a previous dismissal.
Leach kicked former defensive back Zaire Webb off the football team in 2017 after Webb and a teammate were arrested for allegedly shoplifting from Walmart. Prosecutors later dropped the charges, but Leach and the WSU Athletic Award Appeals Committee upheld the decision to revoke his scholarship.
Webb later sued Leach and the Appeals Committee members for allegedly violating his right to due process, negligence and breach of contract. Webb argued Leach had inconsistently applied his “Three Deadly Sins” expulsion policy against Webb, but not other players.
Whitman County Superior Court Judge Gary Libey dismissed the lawsuit in 2019. Upon appeal, the state Court of Appeals last fall reversed the dismissal in part, finding the WSU Appeals Committee had violated Webb’s due process rights and did not have immunity from liability.
“The Appeal Committee’s procedures were lacking in several ways,” the Court of Appeals wrote in November. “Most notably, Webb was not permitted to hear or respond to adverse witnesses and perhaps was not even entitled to call his own witnesses. Also, the hearing was not recorded, and the Committee was comprised of three WSU officers who were asked to review the decision of an influential WSU coach.”
Judge Libey again presided over the case Wednesday, issuing a summary judgment that Webb is entitled to recover “more than nominal damages in an amount to be proven at trial.”
Webb’s attorney Tyler Waite said Monday he found the ruling very encouraging, adding, “[Webb] is looking forward to going to trial and being made whole.”
Waite said the value of Webb’s revoked four-year scholarship would be the minimum amount of damages they would be seeking. The trial is currently set for November.