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Swanenburg Second Defamation Suit against CNU Lacrosse Coach


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Swanenburg's second defamation suit against Boward. This suit alleges that Boward is now responsible for declining enrollment in Capital Lacrosse enrollment. Swanenburg now seeks $500,000 in compensatory and $350,000 in punitive damages. Suit was filed after Swanenburg was granted nonsuit in first defamation suit. Swanenburg now complains that defendant is tortiously interfering with his lacrosse business, does not specify damages.

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Swanenburg Second Defamation Suit against CNU Lacrosse Coach

  1. 1. VIRGINIA CHRISTOPHER T. SWANENBURG. TODD I). BOWARD IN THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR THE CITY OF NEWPORT NEWS Plaintiff. Case No. : Defendant. COMPLALN1‘ COMES NOW the plaintill‘ Christopher Swanenburg, by counsel. and for his Complaint against the defendant. avers the following: 1. Plaintiff is a professional lacrosse coach. an occupation and profession he has continuously engaged in since October 1990. Plaintiff started-up and successfully coached the Christopher Newport University (“CNU") men’s lacrosse team between November 2005 and his termination on March 30. 2010. He served as the men's lacrosse coach at Marymount University between December 2002 and November 2005. He served as the assistant men’s lacrosse coach at Stony Brook University between September 2000 and December 2002. He served as the men's lacrosse coach at Radford University between August 1993 and September 2000. He served as the assistant men‘s lacrosse coach at Goucher College between October I990 and August 1993. During each of these coaching stints. including the period when he started-up and coached (‘NI 1'5 team. Plaintiff achieved coaching success and developed each of those programs. Plaintiff led CNU to three consecutive winning campaigns and his team had a winning record (5-2) at the time CNU suspended him. Plaintiff remains the all-time-winningest coach in CNU history and the only head coach to have ever
  2. 2. led the team to a winning season. Even though Plaintiff was terminated by CNU on March 30. 2010. Plaintiff remained a highly respected and accomplished teacher of lacrosse. coach and organizer of lacrosse related toumaments. camps and events. . Plaintiff is the sole member of Capital Lacrosse. LLC. a business he established in August 2003 and which he continues to operate to this date. The business purpose of Capital Lacrosse. LLC is to organize, coach and manage lacrosse camps. leagues. clinics. toumaments and travel teams. . Plaintiff has continuously eamed a living in the capacity as a lacrosse coach and organizer of lacrosse related activities and events since I990. . Defendant Todd Boward is a professional lacrosse coach who. furthennore, also engages in the business of running lacrosse-related events, including camps. toumaments and travel teams. . At all times relevant and prior to June 24. 2010. Defendant recognized and understood the importance of Paul VI lacrosse coach Victor Goeller to Plaintiff. as the largest customer of his business (Capital Lacrosse. LLC), and as a well-respected lacrosse coach and peer. . Defendant served as Plaintiffs Assistant Coach at CNU prior to Plaintiffs termination and knew that Goeller was a respected high school and travel team coach who had assisted Swanenburg in the recruitment of players to CNU. For example. during the 2009-2010 school year. two of Goeller's former players were freshmen on the CNU men‘s lacrosse team but transferred out of CNU at the conclusion of the school year. Is)
  3. 3. 7. 10. Prior to June 24. 20l0. Defendant had served as the Assistant Director of Plaintiffs privately owned camps and knew that Goeller was Plaintiffs largest customer. During the summer of 2009, Goeller brought 44 players to Plaintiffs residential camp (directly accounting for 37% of Plaintiffs overnight campers and 33% of the camp’s total enrollment). Goeller brought his Paul VI team to CNU during April 2010 to play a neutral-site Spring Break game that had been arranged by Plaintiff prior to his termination. During Goeller‘s visit to CNU. Defendant approached Goeller and asked him if he would bring players to the new residential lacrosse camp that Defendant would be starting that summer. At all times relevant. Defendant knew Goeller was committed to attending Plaintiffs July 2010 residential camp. Despite this fact, Defendant approached Goeller and attempted to lure him and his players away from Plaintiffs camp. At at all times relevant, and prior to June 24. 2010. Defendant acted with and harbored actual malice towards Plaintiff as demonstrated by. among other things. the following: a) During a March 2010 CNU practice. Defendant told player Kevin Righi. “. ..that he wanted to take a shotgun into the office and blow off Coach Swanenburg's head and kill his whole family as well. " Also, according to Righi. that incident. “. ..was not the first time [Boward] had spoken badly about Coach Swanenburg. " b) Falscly contending to Randolph Macon coach Mike Plantholt. at a game between CNU and Randolph Macon on March 31. 2010. that Plaintiff had
  4. 4. been terminated from CNU because he used the “n" word and Plaintiff did not leave CNU on his own accord. c) During a May 2010 phone conversation with Southwestem University men‘s lacrosse coach Joe Emst. Defendant stated that Plaintiff had been fired by CNU. When Emst asked for CNU‘s reason. Defendant replied “I can’t really say but he did something. he knows he did it and he just won’t admit he did it. “ d) During an early June 2010 meeting with then-University of Mary Washington assistant lacrosse coach Shane Allen. Defendant falsely stated to Allen that Plaintiff was terminated by CNU because ". .[Plaintiff] had used the word ‘nigger‘ . . e) Generally defaming Plaintiff to CNU assistant lacrosse coach Shane Allen on numerous occasions and. beginning in April 2010. falsely accusing Plaintiff of using the “n" word and falsely stating that Plaintiff was a "racist". 11. At all times relevant, Defendant’s actions were motivated by personal spite and ill will. with a goal of injuring Plaintiff in his profession as a lacrosse coach and in his trade of operating, organizing, managing and coaching lacrosse-related events: and to damage Plaintiffs reputation with Goeller so Defendant could enroll Goeller’s players in his competing camp. 12. At all times relevant. Defendant was a competitor of Plaintiffs as a professional lacrosse coach. potentially vying for the same coaching and lacrosse-related opportunities. lacrosse players and generally as peers having similar lacrosse business
  5. 5. l4. l5. l6. 17. 18. interests such as in the aforementioned lacrosse camps. toumaments. and travel teams. . Despite being terminated by CNU during March 2010. Plaintiff has always been. and continues to be. a professional lacrosse coach who has conducted lacrosse-related business interests that flowed therefrom. Plaintiff has continuously eamed a living coaching lacrosse since 1990. Defendant maliciously defamed Plaintiff to purposely hurt and to dually injure Plaintiff s career as a professional lacrosse coach and as an operator of a lacrosse- related business. publishing defamatory statements to another lacrosse coach and customer of Plaintiffs for the specific purpose of tarnishing Plaintiffs reputation with both his peers and customer base. CNU fired Plaintiff for no cause and did not contest Plaintiffs unemployment claim. nor. to Plaintiffs current actual knowledge. did CNU or members of the CNU athletic department, except the Defendant. disparage Plaintiffs reputation to third panics outside of CNU. Defendant imputed Plaintiff as being unfit to be a professional lacrosse coach. incapable of being a role model and leader of boys and young men. Defendant maliciously prejudiced Plaintiff in both his profession as a coach and in his trade of operating a lacrosse-related business. Defendant's defamatory statements constitute defamation per se and damages are presumed without further proof thereof.
  6. 6. CLAIM: DEFAMATION PER SE’ 19. Plaintiffs re-allege all previous allegations. 20. On June 24. 2010. at the Ultimate Performance Lacrosse Toumament in Maryland 21. ("the toumament“). Defendant had a conversation with Victor Goeller. the Head Boys Lacrosse Coach at Paul VI Catholic High School (Fairfax. Virginia). Mr. Goeller, in his capacity as a high school lacrosse coach, had previously successfully assisted Plaintiff in the recruitment of a number of his players to CNU. Furthermore. Mr. Goeller was the largest customer of Plaintiff s privately owned residential camp, accounting for 33% (44 of 135) of all camp participants in 2009. During said conversation. Defendant inquired about the potential recruitment of Paul VI players to C NU. Goeller replied to the Defendant by stating that Defendant, . .probably didn't stand a chance to get any of [his] players because of the current turmoil associated with the CNU program. " Defendant responded to Mr. Goeller "that the issues with the program were no longer present"; and added. “you know that SOB Swanenburg is going around telling people that l was the one who got him fired. I didn’t tell him to go around and call people niggers. " 'll1at is, Defendant implied Plaintiff had “called people niggers" and been fired for it by C N U. an utterly false defamatory connotation and implication. The statement quoted in the paragraph above is defamatory because Plaintiff never called any person or "people niggers" and the statement implies that (1) Plaintiff called people “niggers". and (2) CNU fired Plaintiff for “call[ing] people niggers". ' Plaintiff contends Defendant's statements are defamatory per se but altemativcly pleads they constitute ordinary defamation or defamation per quod.
  7. 7. F urthemiore. the statement is false because Plaintiff was never fired (by CNU or any other employer) for misconduct. to include "call[ing]" any person or "people niggers. " . During his attendance at the toumament. Defendant also approached Shenendoah University lacrosse coach Brian Jenkins. Mr. Jenkins testified in a deposition that Defendant volunteered to explain to Jenkins why CNU fired Plaintiff and, indeed. was “eager" to explain the reasons for Plaintiff’ s firing. Circumstantially. one can reasonably infer Defendant would have slandered Plaintiff to Jenkins just as he had to Goeller. demonstrating Defendanfs general malice and desire to damage Plaintiff in his profession and business. . Defendant published the defamatory statement quoted above in paragraph 20 maliciously to Mr. Goeller for the purpose of defaming Plaintiffs reputation. The defamatory statement implies Plaintiff is unfit to be a role model and leader of boys and young men. completely void of exercising good judgment and generally offensive/ reprehensible if not an outright racist. Defendant possessed an actual knowledge of the defamatory nature of his statement and conducted himself with a reckless regard thereof at all times relevant. Defendant knew CNU did not fire Plaintiff for calling a person or "people niggers” and previously a @g his sworn deposition that he did not know gvhy CNU fired Plaintiff. Specifically Defendant testified at his September 17. 2012 deposition that he had "no idea" why C NU fired Plaintiff and Defendant cannot adduce any evidence that Plaintiff "call[ed] people niggers" or was fired for "call[ing] people niggers".
  8. 8. 24. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages and presumed damages from Defendant in an amount that will be fixed by the trier of fact: and $3S0.000 in punitive damages warranted by Defendants‘ willful and wanton conduct in order to punish Defendant and deter him and others from engaging in such future reprehensible conduct. WHEREFORE. Plaintiff Christopher T. Swanenburg. by counsel. respectfully requests the Court grant him compensatory damages in the amount of $500,000; punitive damages in the amount of $350,000; costs; and pre-trial interest in the amount allowed by statute . TRIAL BY JURY REQUESTED CHRISTOPHER SWANENBURG unsel . usher. Esquire (VSB# 44061) HER CLARKE. PLLC P. (). Box 7321 Richmond. Virginia 23221-0321 (804) 335-1270 (804)482-2725 (facsimile) C ‘uunseljbr Plaintiff