Filings keep attorneys in Flood case busy

Second countersuit, another official response submitted

July 24, 2019 Cranberry Local News


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PITTSBURGH — A busy two weeks of filing in a federal lawsuit involving alleged false sexual assault accusations brought a second countersuit and another official response from one of the victims or families involved.

The lawsuit, filed by the Flood family of Zelienople on behalf of their minor son, T.F., lists as defendants David and Christy Sherk as parents of minor K.S.; David and Christine Seaman as parents of C.S.; Cris and Kimberly Salancy as parents of minor E.S.; and David and Lynn Reina, both individually and as parents of H.R. The suit also names the Seneca Valley School District.

The Floods' amended three-count complaint filed in May states that K.S., C.S., E.S. and H.R. falsely accused T.F. of criminal conduct, including sexual assault. As a result, T.F. suffered a “loss of his liberty, psychological and physical injuries” before the girls “reluctantly” admitted to making false accusations, according to the complaint.

Last month, attorneys representing E.S. and the family of K.S. denied the children bullied T.F. The family of K.S. also filed a counterclaim in which it accuses T.F. of sexually assaulting their daughter and denies that K.S. lied about the incidents or that she bullied T.F.

In her court filing in answer to the Floods' lawsuit, defendant E.S. denies accusing “T.F. of criminal conduct, including sexual assault.” She admits that she had been drinking alcohol underage on the night in question related to the second set of charges being filed against T.F. — those involving a March 2018 incident at the home of defendant C.S.

Seaman response

The Seaman family filed their own response to the amended complaint and a counterclaim on July 1.

The response denies all allegations against C.S. and presents that she never recanted her story of being assaulted by T.F.

In the counterclaim, the Seamans allege four charges against T.F. and the Floods, including assault, battery, negligent supervision and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The counterclaim outlines the events of March 23, 2018, indicating that David and Christine Seaman went out for the evening and permitted C.S. to invite E.S. and H.R. over. It alleges that T.F. sent a message indicating he could see the girls from a nearby window.

The counterclaim states that T.F. was left alone with C.S. and that he knew she consumed alcohol that evening. While in the kitchen, he allegedly pulled her close to him and forced her hands down his pants, according to the filing. H.R. came down the stairs and allegedly saw the interaction and ran back upstairs.

The filing states C.S. also ran upstairs, followed by T.F., who whipped her on her legs and stomach with a cellphone charging cord. H.R. and E.S. allegedly were in the bedroom during the incident, although they soon left, leaving C.S. and T.F. alone. She again refused his advances before T.F. left the home.

Documents further allege T.F. later sent C.S. a message telling her not to say anything about the incident because he was “going through a lot.” C.S. reportedly was sick to her stomach upon seeing T.F. in school, and later reported the incident to a guidance counselor, who in turn reported it to ChildLine as required, the filing states.

Court documents allege T.F. and his parents went to the Seamans' home the next day, where T.F. “proceeded to lie to Mrs. Seaman and his own parents, saying nothing happened and that he never touched (C.S.) — only helped her up off the floor.” He also indicated he was invited to the home.

The filing states T.F. was charged with sexual assault on April 9, and C.S. “never recanted her charge that T.F. sexually assaulted her.”

The counterclaim states the Floods knew T.F. was on probation for a previous incident at the Zelienople Community Pool and still allowed him to visit three female classmates without supervision. The Seamans' counterclaim argues the Floods had a duty to “exercise reasonable care so as to supervise” T.F., and were negligent in not doing so, adding that Alecia Flood “admitted her negligence to Christine Seaman, stating she should have called or texted to ensure that the Seaman parents were home.”

The Floods also were negligent in filing the lawsuit as “they knew or should have known that T.F. lied with regard to his inappropriate conduct,” the counterclaim states. They used language in the suit “to generate media attention to paint (the Seamans) in a bad light in an attempt to garner support.”

As a result of the incident, C.S. “has been bullied and harassed, suffered physical injuries, mental anguish, pain and suffering, humiliation, embarrassment” and other damages. This led to the family having incurred medical expenses, the filing states.

The Seamans seek reimbursement, punitive damages and the costs of the suit.

Flood Response to Seneca Valley

Meanwhile, the Flood family is asking the court to deny Seneca Valley School District's motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

The amended complaint focused on the district's failure to discipline the girls, arguing the district and principal repeatedly failed to investigate or discipline young women reporting harassment or assault. Their response further contends those same district officials investigate and discipline young men alleged to have committed similar offenses.

The complaint argues the policy is biased in favor of female students and against male students and “is so permanent and well-settled as to virtually constitute law.” The district also is accused of violating the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which ensures equal protection under the law, by selectively enforcing student conduct policies.

In its motion to dismiss, Seneca Valley's attorneys counter that the suit fails to allege facts that prove such policy and selective enforcement exists. It also argues no proof was shown to indicate a lack of discipline for the female students was the reason T.F. suffered physical and emotional trauma.

In a response filed July 8, the Floods' attorney, Craig Fishman, fired back.

He argued the district failed to fully respond to his client's claims that policies in place are not enforced fairly between males and females, and thus are gender-biased. The response also claims the district mischaracterizes T.F.'s incarceration at the Keystone Education Center after being charged with sexual assault.

The district filed a response to the request July 15, again asking for dismissal, saying the Floods must set forth “facts, not arguments” proving use of a gender-biased policy.

“Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim against Seneca Valley,” it states.

Reina Response

A response filed July 1 by Lynn Reina on behalf of H.R. is the first filing by the family since the suit was brought against them.

Lynn Reina sought an extension from the court until Aug. 5 to respond to the amended complaint, noting “efforts are being made” to obtain a lawyer. In her filing, she notes Fishman only would agree to the July 15 extension, while attorneys for the other families and the school district agreed to her Aug. 5 request.

Chief Judge Mark R. Hornak granted the Aug. 5 extension on July 2.

New Representation

In another filing July 15, Kenneth Hardin of the firm Hardin Thompson P.C., filed an entry of appearance representing the Floods in their suit as plaintiffs and in the counterclaim filed by the Sherks.

In a separate filing, Hardin indicates that he intends to file a motion to dismiss the countersuit by the Sherks and asked for an extension from the July 16 deadline. The brief states Hardin has only recently been retained by the Floods, and the review and draft process is ongoing. A July 31 deadline was requested.

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J.W.  Johnson Jr.

J.W. Johnson Jr.

J.W. Johnson Jr. is the bureau chief of the Cranberry Eagle. Johnson is a native of Bellaire, Ohio, and graduated from Bellaire High School in 2004. He is a 2009 graduate of Ohio University in Athens with a bachelor of specialized studies degree in English and journalism. While there, he served as a reporter and editor at The Post, the university’s student-run, independent newspaper. In 2009, he was hired as a reporter for The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register in Wheeling, W.Va. Over the course of eight years, he also served as Marshall County bureau chief, city editor and news editor. He also won two first place West Virginia Press Association Awards for his reporting and design work. He and his wife, Maureen, live in Carnegie.