Jensen case: Plaintiffs demand insurance info

Ashley Wise Star Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 2, 2019

New motions were filed today by the plaintiffs in the sexual abuse lawsuit against James “Doc” Jensen, the Miles City Unified School District, Custer County District High School and unnamed athletic and school officials.

Attorneys for the 31 plaintiffs contend in the filings that the school district has been less than forthcoming with requests for documents and information, including information about any insurance policies that may provide coverage for the claims made by the plaintiffs.

A school district attorney denied those claims in an email to the Star.

“Motions, responses and replies are all standard parts of the rules and procedures of lawsuits. The School District at all times complied with those, and is confident that the discovery process will continue to demonstrate as much,” said Jeana R. Lervick of Felt, Martin, Frazier & Weldon, PC, of Billings, which is representing the school district in the case.

Jensen, 78, is accused of sexually abusing former student athletes while working as a part-time athletic trainer for the school district between the 1970s and his dismissal in 1998.

The new filings are in response to the school district’s response to a mid-December motion by the plaintiffs to compel discovery, forcing the school district to turn over evidence related to the case. They also seek to strike the school district’s demand for attorney fees.

According to the plaintiff’s new motion, the brief received from the district on Dec. 17 in response to the initial motion was “every bit as confusing as were its answers to Plaintiff’s discovery requests.”

The document states that the brief provided by the school district “does not present any facts and instead makes contradictory arguments, none of which provide any legal basis for the discovery obfuscation which the school district has engaged in here.

“The District is playing discovery games while claiming to not be playing discovery games. The District has created arguments that lead in a circle and allow them to never actually respond to any question or request,” plaintiffs’ attorneys argued in the court document.

The motion claims that the school district has information which it is improperly withholding from the plaintiffs.

Some of the information that the district is supposedly withholding is any insurance policy that may provide coverage for the claims by the plaintiffs, any documents on a possible investigation into Jensen, and documents regarding investigations into Jensen’s sexual contact with students. The plaintiffs also seek any documents that show that any school district employee ever reported Jensen to the Department of Public Health and Human Services, and any documents that show that the school district exercised reasonable care to prevent or correct any allegations.

The list of supposed withheld information includes 18 items.

The new motion requests that the school district be clear on whether they have the information being requested or not.

According to the motion, the district argues in its opposition brief that “there is nothing to compel,” that the district has “attempted to provide as much information as possible,” that most of the requested information “does not exist,” and that “there simply is not the information that plaintiffs desire.”

The document also claims that the district has evaded discovery requests on whether there was any investigation by the school district that led to a 1997 memorandum issued by the district to Jensen. That memorandum, which was included in an earlier round of court filings, documented complaints the district received against the trainer, and outline the conditions of this continued employment.

According to the motion, the plaintiffs had no choice but to file this motion as the district has supposedly continued to refuse to voluntary comply.

The second motion filed addresses the school district’s demand for attorney fees.

The school district argues in court documents that it has a legal basis to request and receive attorney fees from the plaintiffs. The reasoning listed includes that the district couldn’t have known that Jensen had sexually abused students, that the claims of abuse at the school or by Jensen have been “unreasonably pursued,” and that the addition of plaintiffs to the lawsuit has been done to cause annoyance.

“Such arguments by the district are unfounded, disingenuous, and quite frankly, distasteful,” plaintiffs’ attorneys said in the court document, arguing that the school district has no basis to demand the plaintiffs pay attorney fees.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs, who were student athletes at CCDHS, were subjected to several different levels of sexual abuse, ranging from nude massages to oral sex.

These abuses were part of what Jensen is alleged to have called “The Program.” “The Program” was supposed to help improve a boy’s testosterone production, strength, fitness and overall athletic performance.

(Contact Ashley Wise at starnews@midrivers.com or 406-234-0450.)

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