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Chicago Blackhawks refile arguments to dismiss lawsuits
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Chicago Blackhawks refile arguments to dismiss lawsuits

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Chicago Blackhawks - File

Chicago Blackhawks and Carolina Hurricanes players take the ice in an empty arena before the first period at the United Center on Feb. 2, 2021.

The Chicago Blackhawks filed amendments Friday to their motions to dismiss two negligence lawsuits stemming from the team’s handling of an alleged sexual misconduct complaint against former video coach Brad Aldrich in 2010.

Among other statements, the latest filings take issue with arguments the plaintiffs’ attorney, Susan E. Loggans, made in July regarding whether the statute of limitations should apply to the decade-old allegation.

In that case, a former Hawks player on the 2010 championship team alleged in a May lawsuit under the name John Doe that Aldrich harassed him and threatened him if he didn’t engage in nonconsensual sexual activity and then forcibly touched him during a dinner at Aldrich’s apartment in May 2010.

The team’s amended motions also touched on a second suit filed the same month by a former Houghton (Michigan) High School hockey player, identified as John Doe 2, who argued that the team’s failure to report Aldrich to police paved the way for Aldrich to engage in sexual contact with him in 2013, when John Doe 2 was a student and Aldrich was a volunteer coach.

Aldrich pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal sexual conduct with that teenage player and was sentenced to nine months in jail. Under his plea deal, Aldrich served five years’ probation and registered as a sex offender in Michigan.

Bradley Aldrich

Aldrich

In their Friday filing, the Hawks took issue with Loggans’ claim that the team “provided a ‘positive review’ and/or employment verification” to one of Aldrich’s future employers and said they also sent her a formal letter requesting she retract her allegation.

Legal experts who spoke with the Tribune earlier said Loggans would need something like a reference letter — the legal equivalent of a “smoking gun” — to move the case forward.

Loggans at the time told the Tribune she didn’t have such a letter but hoped to reach the discovery phase where she can subpoena records.

The Hawks’ motion contends she prematurely stated that the team gave Aldrich a “positive review” and verified his employment for the high school without having supporting evidence.

“Plaintiff (John Doe 2) effectively admits he has no facts to actually establish that (the team) did either of these things,” the motion reads. “Indeed, (the team) made a request to Plaintiff’s counsel, contemporaneous with the filing of this motion, that she withdraw these allegations because they are demonstrably false. (The team) expects that Plaintiff’s counsel will adhere to her ethical obligations and Illinois Supreme Court Rules by withdrawing the allegations in short order.”

Loggans told the Tribune on Friday that while “it’s improper to allege something that doesn’t exist … I said in my complaint that they failed to perform a background check.”

The Hawks filed their first motions to dismiss both cases in June. In the case of the former Blackhawk who sued as John Doe, the team cited Illinois employment law and the statute of limitations, among other legal arguments.

In late July, Loggans responded to those motions with amended complaints detailing arguments about why John Doe’s lawsuit isn’t preempted by Illinois law or time-barred by the statute of limitations. Loggans argued that the two-year limitation doesn’t apply to her client because he had suppressed the memory of the alleged incident with Aldrich until July 2019, when he learned of Aldrich’s 2013 conviction.

In one of the motions filed Friday by the Hawks, team lawyers said that because John Doe “reported the alleged assault shortly after it happened, his cause of action accrued in May 2010 and expired in 2012. Plaintiff’s claim of a repressed memories cannot toll (i.e., waive the requirement of) the statute of limitations as a matter of law because no court has ever held that an adult victim of sexual assault can extend the limitations period based on a claim of repressed memory.”

The player’s lawsuit states he reported the alleged incident with Aldrich to skills coach Paul Vincent shortly after it happened.

The Hawks’ motion adds: “Plaintiff does not allege how he learned of Aldrich’s arrest and conviction six years later. And he actually pleads details that directly undermine his claim that he suffered from repressed memory until July 2019. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that: ‘[i]n the years following the abuse,’ his Blackhawks teammates (who were only his teammates through 2014) directed insults at him related to the alleged sexual assault.”

Loggans responded Friday: “Repressed memory is not just that event occurred but that you were injured by it. It doesn’t mean that he wasn’t aware that the event occurred, but that he was manning up to it without acknowledging that it had destroyed himself and his career. He was just powering through it, basically.

“John Doe 1 knew or believed that if he came out with this against one of the most popular teams in the world … nobody would believe him and that he would be completely ostracized. … It wasn’t that he didn’t know it happened. It was he was fearful and unaware of how it had hurt him.”

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