The Supreme Court of Ohio assigned a visiting judge to hear the case of former University of Dayton football player Max Engelhart, who is suing the school for alleged hazing that led to his cognitive brain injury. Two local judges had asked to be disqualified due to their ties to UD.
Former Sixth District Court of Appeals Judge Peter M. Handwork was assigned to the case by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, according to Montgomery County Common Pleas Court records.
Handwork spent 30 years at the appellate court, retiring in 2013. He earned his law degree from the University of Toledo in 1966, working as an assistant U.S. attorney and then as a Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge in 1977, according to Ballotpedia.
Engelhart sued the school in December, claiming that a cognitive brain injury he sustained was due to a “Mad Dogs” or “Mad Caps” hazing ritual.
In January, Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Dennis Langer asked to be removed from the case. Langer said he teaches and is paid by UD — which could be seen as a conflict of interest. His removal was approved by Judge Mary Katherine Huffman.
Three months after Langer’s request, Judge Steven Dankof requested to be removed, writing that, “Judge Dankof has potential conflict of interest with defendants.”
Engelhart claims he was forced to chug high-alcohol drinks as part of an initiation to the UD football team more than two years ago. Defendants include UD football coach Rick Chamberlin, strength coach Jared Phillips and others.
Engelhart, then a 6-foot-1, 270-pound offensive lineman, woke up Dec. 8, 2014 covered in his own vomit, feces and urine and with a headache later diagnosed by UD’s team physician as a concussion, according to the lawsuit.
Engelhart claims he quit football, left the university and has been prescribed a medicine typically given to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.
In his amended complaint, Engelhart claims hazing violations, negligence, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy to cover up allegations of hazing.
Handwork has scheduled a June 1 telephone scheduling conference in the case.
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