As college football enters its second month of the 2021 season, Penn State University fans may celebrate a new kind of win. A Chief US District court judge has granted a motion in favor of dismissing Coach James Franklin and Penn State University from a hazing and retaliation lawsuit that was filed in January 2020. Under the initial claim, former player, Isaiah Humphries, alleges that four football players hazed him as a way of initiating him to the team. The amount of compensation Humphries was seeking was not disclosed to the public.
According to the defense’s argument, Coach Franklin and Penn State lacked the specialized duty of care needed to assume liability. The defendants arguably did not breach a policy or contract that would require Coach Franklin and Penn State to protect Humphries or other players from hazing incidents. To the contrary, Humphries has used Coach Franklin’s sentiments against him and has cited previous quotes about the football coach’s commitment to his team, which he referred to as a family, and his promise to defend his players as if they were his own sons. Based on these statements, Humphries contended that a duty to protect him was established.
Despite Coach Franklin’s devotion to his team, Humphries argued that he was subjected to harassment between two to three times every week from November 2018 to November 2019. After reporting the hazing to the coaching staff, Humphries claimed he was retaliated against. Under these circumstances, Humphries decided to transfer to the University of California, but was ineligible to play football for a year due to NCAA guidelines. Humphries had attempted to amend his claims for the court on three occasions; however, five counts of negligence and violations of Title IX and the Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law against Coach Franklin and Penn State have been dismissed.