LBN has been following a lawsuit against United Airlines alleging that young men were sexually abused during a college scholarship program “United Airlines Believers Program,” most recently in an August 15, 2015 report. There are presently nineteen plaintiffs in the lawsuit arising from the 1990s mentoring program. The lawsuit has recently been amended to add the Chicago Board of Education (CBE) as an additional defendant. Plaintiffs’ attorney Lyndsay Markley provides an update to the story in this report.
Markley notes that the plaintiffs are suing United Airlines (and affiliates) as well as the I Have a Dream Foundation, a local Chicago organization. The plaintiffs were part of a program of by United Airlines meant to provide support and mentoring for a group of Chicago children. The I Have a Dream Foundation was involved in, among other things, vetting program personnel, including program coordinator Marvin Lovett. Lovett committed the sexual abuse that is the subject of the lawsuit.
Markley says that, as discovery progressed in the case, United Airlines filed suit against the CBE, alleging that the Board had assisted United Airlines in selecting Lovett as the program coordinator. Markley did not include CBE as a defendant when the suit was filed because she had no evidence of their involvement at that time. During the last few months of discovery, some documents were released that showed the CBE’s involvement in the Believers program. That led to the recent amendment of the lawsuit to add CBE as a defendant.
To date, United Airlines has denied any involvement in the Believers program beyond providing financial support. However, Markley says, she has received about twenty hours of video recorded by United Airlines that shows the company’s involvement in various stages of the program. There are also documents that tend to show the airline company’s real involvement in the program, not just as a funding source. Markley says she does not believe that the company will step forward to acknowledge accountability for any role in the program.
The lawsuit alleges “willful and wanton” conduct, which goes beyond mere negligence. Markley explains that a governmental entity like the CBE is liable only for willful and wanton conduct under the Illinois Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act. Markley says that the conduct of the CBE as it appears in the documents released in discovery shows a reckless disregard for the safely of the plaintiffs in the case. As to the other defendants in the lawsuit, ordinary negligence is the basis of liability. However, evidence of willful and wanton conduct would support an award of punitive damages by a jury, should the case go to trial.
Chicago-based attorney Lyndsay A. Markley has dedicated her legal practice to fighting on behalf of persons who suffered injuries or death as the result of the wrongful or careless conduct of others. For her work as a victims’ advocate, Ms. Markley has received an array of accolades, including selection to the Top 100 Trial Attorneys in Illinois and a Top 40 Under 40 Trial Attorney for 2012-2014 by the National Association of Trial Lawyers. She has also been acknowledged by her colleagues as an Illinois’ Rising Star in 2013 -2014 (SuperLawyers’ Magazine) and as a Top Women Lawyer in Illinois in 2014 by Super Lawyers and Chicago Magazine. Lyndsay's commentary was hosted by The Legal Broadcast Network, a featured network of Sequence Media Group.