Responses continue in Flood lawsuit
Alexandria MansfieldEagle Staff Writer
JACKSON TWP — Two additional responses filed Tuesday in connection with a federal lawsuit on false sexual assault allegations against a Seneca Valley student were similar in tone to ones filed earlier in the week.
The Zelienople families addressed the lawsuit brought by Alecia and Michael Flood Jr. in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, claiming their minor son, identified as T.F. in the suit, suffered physical torment and psychological trauma as a result of false sexual assault allegations.
Pittsburgh attorney Stephen Magley — who is representing David and Christine Seaman and their daughter, C.S. — argued that the plaintiffs have not presented an evidence-based case.
The Seamans also argued that they cannot reasonably be responsible for their daughter’s actions and that their daughter is protected under absolute privilege.
This is similar to the motion the Salancy family filed for their daughter, E.S., on Monday.
Because one of the incidents took place at a party at David and Christine Seamans’ home, with alcohol present and consumed by minors, the Seamans also answered to a separate instance of negligence with alcohol that they had no knowledge of the party or the children’s access to alcohol and couldn’t be liable for it.
While the Seamans’ defense bears a remarkably close resemblance to that of the Salancys, the Villegas family responded with different reasoning for the same motions for dismissal.
As she is the only alleged conspirer who is an adult, Meghan Villegas’s parents, George and Pam Villegas, argued that they shouldn’t have to answer to negligence accusations because Meghan Villegas wasn’t a minor at the time of the incidents described in the lawsuit.
Attorney Joseph Charlton argued for the Villegas family that parents, like George and Pam Villegas, cannot be held accountable for the actions of their adult children.
Additionally, the defense offered on behalf of Meghan Villegas revolves around the statute of limitations.
While Meghan Villegas is mentioned in counts of negligence, defamation, malicious prosecution, invasion of privacy, abuse of process, injurious falsehood and fraudulent misrepresentations, Charlton states that all counts fall under a broader umbrella of a defamation suit since it was her words, and not her actions, that ultimately caused the plaintiff’s allegations against her.
For a case of defamation, the statute of limitations is one year — which means the time frame to bring legal action against Villegas expired in July.
“The statute begins to run when ‘the plaintiff has discovered his injury or, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have discovered his injury,’” Charlton stated.
The argument is that T.F. “knew or should have known” about Meghan Villegas’s report when he was fired from the Zelienople Pool July 26, 2017, which would have started the statute of limitations. A suit, therefore, would need to be initiated by July 26, 2018, and not Oct. 1, 2018, when the Floods filed.
“The basis of plaintiffs’ claims against Meghan Villegas are the alleged false statements that she made to her supervisor and others,” the motion states. “In other words, plaintiff’s claims are, in their essence, defamation claims.”
To contradict the validity of a defamation suit, Charlton also argues that her statements alone were not defamatory because it was her duty to report the alleged assault to a supervisor.
In addition to the defamation defense, Charlton argued, similarly to the other families’ defenses, that the plaintiffs “have failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted” as a response to most of the counts in the lawsuit.
Another similarity in motions resulted from the Villegas and Seaman families joining in Cris and Kimberly Salancys’ request to strike the term “mean girls” as something “scandalous” that was “used to reach local media,” like the Butler Eagle, and to garner “national attention through The Associated Press and Fox News.”
The Seamans’ defense added the label “tormentors” to the list of issues they have with the plaintiff’s claims and asked for those references to be removed as well.
The original lawsuit alleges that Meghan Villegas and minors K.S., C.S., E.S. and H.R. falsely accused T.F. of sexual assault twice — for which he was punished — and accuses their parents, George Villegas Jr., Pam Villegas, David and Christy Sherk, David and Christine Seaman, Cris and Kimberly Salancy and David and Lynn Reina of negligence.
Also on the list of defendants are Seneca Valley School District, Butler County District Attorney’s Office and Butler County as entities that exercised gender-based discrimination and failed to properly investigate initial charges brought against T.F. and give him his fair and due process.