I write sometimes about litigation involving Duke University’s sports teams. In fact, the most popular post ever on this blog was The Law And Duke Football: The Video, which has a video of Duke’s own lawyer telling a judge how bad Duke football is. That video, according to youtube, has been watched over 17,000 times.
Posts on derivative actions and motions for sanctions don’t get that kind of traffic.
Anyway, yesterday’s decision (sorry, no video) from the North Carolina Court of Appeals in Pressler v. Duke University is worth a mention. It involves Duke’s unsuccessful effort to force its former men’s lacrosse coach out of court and into arbitration on his defamation claims.
The defamation claim arose after Pressler and Duke had settled matters involving his resignation as coach. The Mutual Release and Settlement Agreement, entered into in 2007, contained a non-disparagement provision. It also contained a provision stating that Pressler and Duke "wish to cancel all earlier agreements" between them. Those earlier agreements included an Employment Contract which incorporated by reference Duke’s Dispute Resolution Policy. The Policy required arbitration of all disputes.
In 2008, Pressler sued Duke for allegedly defaming him in post-settlement statements. Duke moved to compel arbitration in reliance on its Policy, notwithstanding the language of the Release extinguishing all prior agreements. Duke argued that "when the mutual release referred to ‘all earlier agreements,’ this did not really mean all earlier agreements."
When all was said and done, the Court of Appeals disagreed. The Court held "[t]he mutual release addresses ‘all earlier agreements,’ and whether the policy was a part of the 2005 Employment Contract or not, surely it was an ‘earlier agreement’ between the parties which would be encompassed by the term ‘all.’"
Th-th-th-that’s all folks.