On May 3, 2006, the court heard 3 motions augmenting a five-count lawsuit challenging Antonio Vernón's (www.tonythetiger.frih.net) suspension, and eventual dismissal, from his Ph.D. program in the Graduate School of Business of the University of Chicago. In the latest developments in the case that that has been in the legal system since 2002, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Ronald F. Bartkowicz ruled in favor of admitting 3 of the 4 counts presented by the Plaintiff's Motion for leave to file a 3rd Amended Complaint. This includes a spoliation of evidence count, alleging that the University breached its duty to preserve evidence by destroying thousands of potentially relevant documents, even after the case was filed. The court reserved ruling on both the plaintiff's motion for discovery sanctions and the defendant's motion to strike the plaintiff's expert report. The court will rule on these two motions by mail shortly. Antonio Vernón alleges that the University willfully violated his contractual rights with the University, which wrongfully curtailed his academic freedom and punitively deprived him of promised financial aid and scholarships. Vernón's financial aid and scholarships were funded by the Graduate School of Business, Citibank and General Electric.
The court denied without prejudice a 4th additional count for tortious interference in the 3rd Amended Complaint. The proposed tortious interference count states a claim against a dean of the Graduate School of Business in his individual capacity, but the allegations need to be refined. Plaintiff has 21 (until May 24th) days to refine allegations of this count. Then, defense has 21 days (until June 14th) to answer the tortious interference count, or to file a motion to dismiss it, a motion for judgment on the pleadings, or a motion for summary judgment. If defense files such a motion on June 14th, the court will set a briefing schedule on June 21st that could extend through the summer. On June 21st, the new tortious interference count will be at issue should defendants opt to answer.2
Vernón is attempting to become the first Afro-American to obtain a finance Ph.D. from one of the top five Finance Ph.D. programs (Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, MIT & Wharton). Finance is the science or study of funds management, emphasizing the institutions, instruments, and markets used to fund and hedge business operations. Holding advanced degrees from the University of Michigan and Washington University, Vernón researches microeconomic corruption, social interactions, and intertemporal complementarity. Vernón alleges that the University blocked him from completing his Ph.D. program and from acquiring the skills necessary to succeed as an academic researcher. Antonio is one letter grade short in 1 of his 15 required courses of the academic requirements for advancing to Ph.D. candidacy. Vernón, born in New Orleans and raised in Buffalo, continues to aspire to be a finance professor, a field from which scholars of color are notably absent.
The court decided to reserve ruling both on the plaintiff's motion for discovery sanctions for shredded documents, erased computers, and untimely production and on the defendant's motion to strike the plaintiff's expert report on damages. Defendants argue that career damages cannot be recovered in a breach of contract case. Rulings from the court on these two motions are anticipated by mail shortly. The court continues to reserve ruling on a motion by defendant for relief from defendant's duplicate cost petition arising from the plaintiff's 2nd amended complaint.
It is anticipated that after ruling on the tortious interference count the court will set a dispositive motion schedule, set a trial date and, pending its ruling on the motion to strike the expert report, set an expert deposition schedule. The court has encouraged the parties to resolve the matter through voluntary, out-of-court mediation.
In his suit against the University, eight claims are now at issue. Counts I and II allege, respectively, breach of express and of implied contract, due to violations of University regulations, and his rights to freedom of inquiry, as set forth in the University manual and handbook. Freedom of inquiry, one of the most highly protected freedoms in an academic community, is the freedom to inquire without penalty or retribution. Counts IV and V allege breach of express and implied contracts for financial aid (especially free tutoring). Newly added counts VII and VIII reallege these breaches of contract with refinements based on discovery to date. Count X for spoliation of evidence was added for breach of duty to preserve evidence by destroying thousands of potentially relevant documents. Count VI alleges detrimental reliance on the promises of the University; Vernón claims the University lured him from another program, and uprooted his life. Vernón is represented by Elaine Siegel (ELAINE K.B. SIEGEL & ASSOC., P..C., 39 South LaSalle Street, Suite 617, Chicago, Illinois 60603, (312) 236-8088, EKBSiegel@aol.com).
Vernón, a kukkiwon certified black belt, is one of Chicago's most prominent non-projectile weapons practitioners and most popular beach personalities. He often performs using the nickname "Tony the Tiger". You can see him perform July 3rd in the Wilmette Parks District Independence Day Celebration. He was the 1st middleweight collegiate athlete to deadlift 600 lbs. without using steroids. His father, Dr. Carlos Vernón (1937-2003), was the 1957 Athlete of the Year for the Republic of Panama and is the greatest sprinter in Latin American history. He ran a 10.2 when the world record was 10.1.
Donations to his legal fund by check and money order, at Vernón Legal Fund, 1507 E. 53rd. St. - #608, Chicago, IL 60615 are welcomed. Donations by credit card and electronic payment can be made via free paypal accounts (from www.paypal.com) to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
1Prior media contact suggests that a press release will not be covered in traditional media until a trial date has been set.
2Plaintiff is attempting to move all of these dates in paragraph 2 forward 7 days to accommodate Vernón's travel schedule but has not heard from either defense or the court.