Hearing to dismiss lawsuit against NHCBOE regarding Michael Kelly concludes, ruling pending

The arguments to dismiss the civil suit against the New Hanover County Board of Education concluded on Thursday afternoon.

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The arguments to dismiss the civil suit against the New Hanover County Board of Education concluded on Thursday afternoon.

The lawsuit was filed by the Rhine Law Firm along with the Lea Schultz Law Firm on behalf of the 14 victims of Michael Kelly, the former New Hanover County Schools teacher that pleaded guilty to multiple counts of indecent liberties with a child, indecent liberties with a student, and second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor in June of 2019.

The victims allege the school system failed to disclose the allegations and concealed Kelly’s sexual abuse of students. Former Superintendent Tim Markley and former Deputy Superintendent Rick Holliday are named in the lawsuit.

The hearing started on Tuesday afternoon as Deborah Stagner, the attorney representing the school board, and Daniel Mullins, representing Rick Holliday, moved to dismiss the suit.

On Tuesday, Stagner argued the board is not liable for Michael Kelly’s actions, because they were not carried out in the scope of his employment. The plaintiffs argued the board is in fact liable, because many of the sexual acts took place on school grounds and on school time.

The defendants argued the statute of limitations of three years has run out, saying the clock started when the assaults ended. The attorneys representing the victims claim the victims did not know the system had wronged them until the case reached the court system in 2019.

When the hearing continued on Wednesday, the plaintiffs floated the idea of amending their complaint for the fifth time if the judge needed more information, rather than dismissing the case altogether. The defense said the plaintiffs had plenty of time to argue their case, so if an amendment is necessary, the judge should dismiss. The plaintiffs continued to argue that the statute of limitations allows claims from all 14 John Does to remain on the suit.

On Thursday, the attorneys made their final arguments in the hearing. The board of education’s attorney argued that if the case is not dismissed, it should be sent to a three-judge panel, because of the type of challenges being brought in the claim. Additionally, the statute of limitations argument continued. The defense argued 10 John Does should be thrown out, while the plaintiffs maintain that all 14 John Does should remain in the case.

Judge Phyllis Gorham said she is reviewing the arguments and will contact the attorneys with her ruling.

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