In July 2009, a Nevada woman sued Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, alleging that he sexually assaulted her in a Lake Tahoe hotel room.
More than 17 months later, the case has barely moved off the starting line.
As explained by Cy Ryan of the Las Vegas Sun, the case currently sits before the Nevada Supreme Court on a threshold procedural motion focusing on whether the case should proceed in Washoe County, where it was filed, or in Douglas County, where the assault allegedly occurred. The courthouses are roughly 45 miles apart.
Decisions regarding the location in which a lawsuit will be filed potentially impact any given legal action, based on the reputations of the judges and the jury awards generated in past cases. Also, the fact that the Harrah’s hotel and casino where the plaintiff was employed and where Roethlisberger was staying employs a significant number of Douglas County residents could make the jury pool less inclined to rule against the company.
Regardless of the reason(s), the plaintiff’s lawyer perceives Washoe County to be a more favorable forum and the lawyers representing the defendants believe that Douglas County gives them a better chance of success. The issue wouldn’t currently be pending before the Nevada Supreme Court if both sides didn’t feel strongly about their respective positions.
Once the Nevada Supreme Court issues a ruling, the case finally will proceed, presumably with a deposition of the plaintiff and, eventually, a deposition of Roethlisberger. E-mails published in the weeks after the filing of the case tend to undermine the plaintiff’s position, since they suggested that she willingly engaged in sexual activities with Roethlisberger. She nevertheless contends that she was raped after Roethlisberger lured her to his room by claiming that his television needed to be fixed. Absent a settlement, there’s a good chance Roethlisberger eventually will have to defend himself at a trial in open court, and that he could face evidence relating to the incident that occurred in Georgia earlier this year.
Though Roethlisberger never has been charged with a crime, the NFL suspended him four games for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy.