The lawyer hired by the majority of the suspended University of Ottawa men’s hockey team says they will file a class-action lawsuit against their school and its president Allan Rock.
Lawrence Greenspon said 24 former members of the 2013/14 team, all except two players facing charges, are seeking a combined $6 million in damages because their reputations were damaged by the cancellation of this year's season.
The team was suspended in March 2014 after allegations of sexual assault against some players during a team trip to Thunder Bay.
The two players Greenspon is not representing, Guillaume Donovan and David Foucher, were charged with one count of sexual assault each in August.
Their next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 10 in Thunder Bay.
'More concerned with their fundraising … than the damages they would cause'
The lawsuit, with 24-year-old Ottawa forward Andrew Creppin as its representative plaintiff, is seeking $4 million "for breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, malfeasance in public office" and $2 million for punitive, exemplary and/or aggravated damages.
"The defendants were more concerned with their fundraising and the image of the University of Ottawa than the damages they would cause to the individuals in the class when they wrongfully suggested to the national media that the plaintiff and the class were involved in criminal activity," the lawsuit said.
It claims the team's coach, Réal Paiement, was "made aware" of the identities of the two team members involved, as was Rock a month later, but the team was suspended during a nationally televised news conference on March 3.
The announcement cast "a dark shadow" over all of the players, some of whom couldn't go to class because of anxiety, some of whom who lost summer jobs and all of whom were "uninvited" from year-end banquets and receptions, according to the lawsuit.
"It was hard for us to even wear our coats out in public without being ridiculed," Creppin said in a news conference on Tuesday.
"Especially being from Ottawa and working so hard to build up a reputation here, I felt like the allegations cast a bad shadow on us as a team and individually."
Creppin said in the lawsuit he and some other members of the team were at the hospital with a teammate who may have drank too much alcohol and weren't at the hotel at the time of the alleged assault.
When they returned around 5:30 a.m., they were told they had missed a team meeting Paiement had called at 4 a.m. about the alleged complaints. The two accused of assault and the sick teammate were given three game suspensions.
The lawsuit also said the school cited "the values that are at the heart of athletics and student life on campus," despite being one of the few universities in Canada without a "code of conduct" at the time.
"The University of Ottawa has not yet been served with any documents relating to a legal action on this subject," the school said in a statement after the announcement.
"We will review any legal documents when they are served."