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About a dozen plaintiffs and defense lawyers, who usually are on opposing sides in legal battles, are part of a team that successfully defended Baylor University and several of its officials against a suit brought by the father of slain Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy. Judge Ralph Strother, presiding judge of the 19th District Court in Waco, signed an order on Feb. 25 granting motions for summary judgment on all allegations raised in Dennehy v. Baylor University, et al. Strother had dismissed all but one of the plaintiff’s claims at a Feb. 6 hearing but had given the plaintiff’s attorneys two weeks to provide more evidence that the defendants “intentionally, knowingly and/or recklessly” caused the younger Dennehy’s death. The attorneys did not file an amended petition by the Feb. 20 deadline. Strother signed the order and final judgment in the case just six months after Patrick Dennehy Sr. filed the wrongful-death suit and survival action in Houston’s 234th District Court and a related application for administration of his son’s estate in Harris County Probate Court No. 1. Stephen C. Dillard, one of the attorneys representing Baylor president Robert Sloan, says it’s almost unprecedented to have a case of this size that has gone through the machinations this one has be disposed of in such a short amount of time. “It was truly a team effort,” says Dillard, litigation chairman for Fulbright & Jaworski. Noley Bice, Baylor’s general counsel, says he hand-picked lawyers for the team after learning that Dennehy planned to file a suit alleging, among other things, that the university, its president, board of regents, past and present members of its athletic department and a Baylor supporter were negligent and grossly negligent in connection with the younger Dennehy’s death. The 21-year-old basketball player had been missing about six weeks when his body was found in July 2003 in a field a few miles from the Baylor campus in Waco. Carlton Dotson, the younger Dennehy’s former teammate and roommate, has been charged with murder in connection with the shooting death. The elder Dennehy alleged in his petition that the Baylor administration and athletic department ignored his son’s requests for help after a group of Baylor basketball players and students threatened the younger Dennehy for reporting alleged improprieties in the basketball program. In his petition, the father asserted claims of negligence and gross negligence against each of the 10 defendants named in the suit, alleging that each owed a duty to not subject his son to unreasonable risks of injury. He alleged in the petition that the defendants were jointly and severally liable for damages, including punitive damages. In the petition, the father also asserted claims for negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, fraud, civil conspiracy and violations of the Texas Penal Code, alleging that the defendants “intentionally, knowingly and recklessly” caused his son’s death. Citing the 2nd Court of Appeal’s 1999 decision in Boyd v. Texas Christian University Inc., the Baylor defendants argued in their motion for summary judgment that they had no duty to protect the younger Dennehy from the criminal acts of a third person. The Fort Worth court of appeals held in Boyd that, as a matter of law, TCU had no duty to provide a safe environment to one of its students who was allegedly assaulted by four TCU football players while the student participated in a non-university event at an off-campus bar. “There’s no duty on the part of the university to anticipate that one of its students will leave the university and commit a crime,” says Houston attorney Wayne Fisher, lead counsel for Baylor, the board of regents and board chairman Drayton McLane Jr. Michael McCue, a shareholder in Dallas’ Meadows, Owens, Collier, Reed, Cousins & Blau who represents former Baylor basketball coach Dave Bliss, says the district court correctly applied the law to the facts of this case and found that no acts by Bliss or any of the other defendants were the cause of the younger Dennehy’s death. “There are no technical gotchas here,” Fisher says of Strother’s decision to grant summary judgment. “We’re winning on a clear premise of law.” Richard Laminack, lead attorney for the elder Dennehy and a partner in Houston’s O’Quinn, Laminack & Pirtle, did not return three phone calls seeking comment before presstime. Daniel S. Cartwright, another attorney representing the father, declines comment. Cartwright, a partner in the Cartwright Law Firm in Houston, says the plaintiff’s lawyers agreed that Laminack would be the spokesman. A listing for Patrick Dennehy Sr. in Tacoma, Wash., could not be located. The plaintiff argued in his response to the defendants’ summary judgment motion that the defendants had a duty to control their employees, specifically Bliss, and had a duty to protect Patrick Dennehy Jr. from foreseeable criminal conduct by a third party. “The harm that occurred in this case was clearly foreseeable,” the plaintiff alleged in the response, noting that the younger Dennehy had complained to Baylor officials and Bliss, his coach, about violent threats he had received. The case had a lengthy procedural history in Harris County before Strother ruled in Waco on the defendants’ motions for summary judgment. Fisher, a partner in Houston’s Fisher, Boyd, Brown, Boudreaux & Huguenard, says the defendants’ filed the motions to transfer the case to McLennan County for the convenience of the parties and witnesses in the case. But before the change of venue motion could be heard, the plaintiff filed a motion to transfer the wrongful-death suit to probate court, Fisher says. Following an Oct. 2, 2003, hearing, Probate Court No. 1 Judge Russell Austin denied the motion to have the case heard by his court. Also in October, the plaintiff sought the recusal of 234th District Judge Bruce Oakley, alleging in the motion to recuse that Oakley lacked the appearance of impartiality because he graduated from Baylor University School of Law. Fisher says Judge Olen Underwood, presiding judge for the 2nd Administrative Judicial Region, denied the recusal motion after an Oct. 23, 2003, hearing. Oakley held a hearing on the defendants’ change of venue motions on Nov. 3, 2003, and signed an order transferring the case to McLennan County about a week later, Fisher says. Assembling the Team Baylor had its defense team in place before the legal maneuvering began. Baylor general counsel Bice says he knew that Baylor could not delay taking aggressive action in the suit and began assembling the defense team after the plaintiff’s attorneys announced at a news conference that the wrongful-death action would be filed. “My idea about this team was to get the best trial lawyers. It made no difference to me whether they were plaintiffs lawyers or defense lawyers,” Bice says. “Are they good, ethical lawyers who can take a case and move quickly on it? “ A majority of the attorneys recruited by Bice are graduates of Baylor School of Law. “The common denominator of attending Baylor law school is what brought us together,” Dillard says. It was the team members’ respect and admiration for each other that enabled them to work together so well, he adds. Bice, also a Baylor law school graduate, says his first thought in putting together the defense team was to turn to his old classmate, Fisher, who usually represents plaintiffs. Fisher’s partners -� Larry P. Boyd, Thomas K. Brown and James A Huguenard -� worked with him on the case. Other attorneys recruited for the team include Dillard, Otway Denny and David Iler, all partners in Fulbright & Jaworski in Houston; George Chandler, a principal in Chandler Law Offices in Lufkin; and Fred Hagans, a shareholder in Houston’s Hagans, Bobb & Burdine. Bice did not recruit McCue, who as Bliss’ attorney, also worked on the defense team. Bice says he also retained plaintiffs attorney Broadus Spivey, a principal in the Law Offices of Broadus A. Spivey in Austin, to represent the university in all matters not actually involving the defense of the case. Bice says that Spivey assisted him in evaluating the clients for the division of counsel. Spivey says a serious rift had developed among Baylor supporters between those who support Sloan, the president, and those who oppose him, and the general counsel had to work with all of them. “They had to have an independent voice,” Spivey says, adding that he filled that role. Serving as an adviser to Bice was an unusual role for him, Spivey says, because they usually are on opposite sides in litigation. Bice says Spivey assisted him in assembling the team and dividing the attorneys among the defendants. “We had a lot of personalities in this,” he says. “That’s why we wanted them to have individual lawyers looking out for their rights.” There always is the potential for conflicts in cases with multiple defendants, Bice says. One defendant may feel a need to file a cross-claim against another defendant named in the suit, he says. If one attorney represents all the defendants, that attorney could not take action against one client on behalf of another client. “The parties have to have individual counsel,” Spivey says. “It’s real critical in a case like this.” Bice says that Spivey also reviewed the case from the perspective of possible insurance disputes. In this type of case, Bice says, disputes can arise over whether a claim is covered by an institution’s insurance plan, and Spivey looked at the potential for that happening. Other attorneys who assisted Baylor with the case, but who were not members of the defense team, include Don Riddle, a partner in Houston’s Riddle & Baumgartner, and Ralph “Skip” McBride, a partner in Bracewell & Patterson in Houston. Bice says the lawyers did not charge Baylor their full fees for their services and didn’t charge for some of the things they did. “These are lawyers we could not afford to have handle this case. They all, on their own, made adjustments to fit with what we could pay,” he says. Fisher says his firm accepted the amount of defense fees provided under Baylor’s insurance policy. “We have not and do not intend to charge Baylor what our ordinary rates have been,” he says, but declines to be specific about what the charges would have been or what the insurance company paid his firm. Notes Fisher: “I could never repay Baylor for what it’s done for me.”

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