Jury finds Baylor University negligent in former student’s Title IX lawsuit

FILE - Baylor helmets rest on the field after an NCAA college football game in Waco, Texas,...
FILE - Baylor helmets rest on the field after an NCAA college football game in Waco, Texas, Dec. 5, 2015. A federal jury on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023, found Baylor University negligent in a Title IX lawsuit and awarded $270,000 to a former student who alleged she was physically abused by a football player in 2014 during a period of wide-ranging scandal at the nation's biggest Baptist school.(AP Photo/LM Otero, File)
Published: Oct. 25, 2023 at 12:59 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX/Gray News) - A federal jury awarded Dolores Lozano $270,000 in damages Tuesday after finding Baylor University violated Title IX policies and was negligent in the way it handled her domestic violence reports suffered at the hands of a former football player.

Jurors in Waco’s U.S. District Court deliberated almost nine hours over two days before reaching a verdict.

While the jury awarded Lozano no monetary damages for the Title IX violation, it gave her $40,000 for past physical pain and mental anguish, $190,000 for future physical pain and mental anguish, and $40,000 for future health care expenses.

Lozano, 31, a Harris County justice of peace, said she is pleased with the verdict, adding that her lawsuit was “never about the money.”

“We are incredibly grateful,” Lozano said after the eight-day trial. “I would like to say to all the women out there this is not just about me or Baylor. It was for all of us, the women across all the universities, and it is great to get a win in Waco. I am grateful for my team. I couldn’t have done that without them. After some victim blaming, we got a win.”

The verdict closes the final chapter in the prolonged Title IX sexual assault scandal that cost former Baylor University football coach Art Briles and former president Ken Starr their jobs. The scandal also led to the resignation of former athletic director Ian McCaw and the sexual assault convictions of two former Baylor defensive ends.

Fifteen women who were sexually assaulted while they were students at Baylor known in their lawsuits for years only as “Jane Does 1-15″ and at least one other student who was assaulted reached confidential out-of-court settlements with the university before their cases reached trial.

One of Lozano’s attorneys, Sheila Haddock, said Lozano’s is the first Title IX case that she is aware of to be decided by a jury.

“It’s been a long seven years, wrangling through Title IX, the changes in the law, so we just couldn’t be happier,” Haddock said. “This is the first time Baylor has been held accountable by a jury for Title IX violations. It was never about the money. It was about justice.”

Most of the five women and three men on the jury declined comment as they left the courthouse. One man who declined to give his name spoke briefly as he was leaving.

“I’ll just say it was a pretty hard case,” he said. “We just wanted to get it right.”

Zeke Fortenberry, who also represented Lozano, said the verdict should serve as a wake-up call for Baylor to finally issue an apology to Lozano, something he said she has had coming for seven years or more.

“This verdict is an affirmation of everything we have been saying,” Fortenberry said. “They violated Title IX, they were negligent in the way they handled it and they affirmed both of those things. Through all the seven years, press releases and finger-pointing with Baylor and the football program and the regents back and forth, I think this is the first time that a jury of eight regular people got to see the evidence and put it all together.”

Baylor attorney Julie Springer said the university will weigh its options about a possible appeal.

“We respect the jury’s decision,” Springer said. “We respect all the time and attention they paid to this matter, but we respectfully disagree with that decision. The evidence was the athletic staff and Baylor staff responded appropriately when told of Ms. Lozano’s reports. We are pleased that despite the finding of the Title IX violation, the jury found that Ms. Lozano didn’t suffer any loss of educational opportunities at Baylor. That was significant to us, and we think it should be significant to the public, as well.”

Baylor officials also issued a statement after the verdict.

“We are obviously disappointed in the decision in this case, as we continue to contend that Baylor coaches and employees in athletics and across the campus reported and handled these incidents in the correct, legally and clinically prescribed manner.

“We sincerely regret that the plaintiff in this case had a difficult experience while a student at Baylor, and our prayers remain with her now and into the future. The safety and security of our students continues to be our top priority as we fulfill our Christian mission to provide a safe and caring environment for all members of the university community.”

Jurors found Baylor violated Title IX by maintaining a policy of deliberate indifference to reports of sexual harassment that created a heightened risk that Lozano would be injured.

Baylor officials testified that they acted out of care and concern once Lozano reported she was physically assaulted by her former boyfriend, Baylor running back Devin Chafin, on three occasions in March and April 2014.

They testified that Lozano was directed to the campus health center, to the counseling center and to top Baylor Judicial Affairs administrators. She was offered a no-contact order against Chafin, instructed about local domestic violence resources and told she could report the assaults to campus or Waco police.

Lozano testified she reported the second assault to Waco police, but said she never followed through with the case because she didn’t want to get Chafin in trouble.

Lozano added Briles and McCaw as defendants in her 2016 lawsuit in 2018, claiming Baylor officials had a different set of disciplinary scales for its football players than it did for the rest of the student body while trying to maintain the winning team under Briles.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman dismissed Briles and McCaw from the suit after five days of testimony, ruling Lozano had not proved her negligence claims against them.

McCaw testified that he resigned shortly after a member of the Baylor Board of Regents told him that Briles was going to “take the fall” for the university’s shortcomings. He said he could not support that decision.

Stephenville attorney Ernest Cannon, who represents Briles, said he thinks Briles has been exonerated by evidence that came out during the trial.

“The evidence in the trial from Ian McCaw was that the regents said Art was going to have to take the fall from this because it was so bad,” Cannon said. “Baylor spent a lot of time and effort trying to make Art take the fall, but that fall ended this week when this jury found that Baylor should take the fall. Baylor took the position that Art needed to take the fall, but this jury said, ‘No, Baylor, you can take the fall because it was your doing,’ and Art was found not guilty.”