A judge has dismissed former University of Montana women's soccer coach Mark Plakorus' defamation lawsuit against the university.
Missoula District Court Judge John Larson dismissed the suit on Wednesday following a motion by the university's attorneys asserting Plakorus had not exhausted the grievance remedies in his contract before taking the matter to court.
Quentin Rhoades, who represents Plakorus, told the Missoulian on Friday he plans to appeal Larson's ruling, which stated Plakorus did not file the lawsuit within a one-year statute of limitations set in state law for contract disputes with state entities. Rhoades contends this is not a contract dispute, but a violation of Plakorus' constitutional right to privacy and a series of other torts, for which the statute of limitations extends two or three years.
"We are therefore confident that the (Montana) Supreme Court will reverse the decision and send it back for a jury trial on merits," Rhoades said in an email Friday.
The lawsuit stemmed from Plakorus' ouster from UM in 2018 after officials in the Athletic Department found he had used a university-issued cell phone to text escort services during recruiting trips to Las Vegas. The departure was initially described publicly as Plakorus resigning from the post after a successful seven seasons leading the soccer team. The Missoulian later learned Plakorus was removed at the end of a UM investigation that found he was texting escort services on work trips to Las Vegas.
Plakorus maintained his personal time was his personal business, although he conceded using a university-issued cell phone was a mistake.
The lawsuit against the university claimed UM violated his right to privacy and breached its duty to protect confidential and private information by releasing certain employment details to media outlets following his dismissal.
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"I'm a bit devastated that the athletic director would trash me and involve confidential information and false information throughout that whole story, and violate my rights to confidentiality," Plakorus told the Missoulian after his departure from UM in 2018.
The lawsuit, filed in May, alleged Plakorus' employment prospects were stymied by UM's handling of the matter, but adds he was able to take a job in Idaho.
Quinlan O'Connor, from the state's Risk Management and Tort Defense Division, has represented UM in this case. In the motion to dismiss the case, O'Connor successfully argued that Plakorus' allegations UM mishandled his personnel information is an issue governed by the terms and conditions in his contract with the state.
In the motion to have the case dismissed, attorneys for UM wrote that despite bypassing the administrative process, in which Plakorus and UM would dispatch lawyers to parse out contract disagreements privately, Plakorus did not file his lawsuit within the one-year statute of limitations for contract disputes against a state entity, as set out in state law.
Rhoades maintained in his response that Plakorus was not claiming a contract dispute, "although he could." Rhoades had asked Larson for a hearing on the matter to conduct oral arguments.
Larson, in his order on Wednesday dismissing the case, wrote because Plakorus' complaints were each contract-based, the statute of limitations applies to his case, and he denied Rhoades' request.