The University willexplore settlement discussions ona mental health-related lawsuit with theplaintiff, who is using the pseudonym W.P., as requested by the presiding judge.
According to a text order signed by Tonianne Bongiovanni, a magistrate judge at the United States District Court of New Jersey, on Mar. 17, the plaintiff is to submit to the court a confidential settlement memo under five pages with his settlement position by Mar. 28.
Ruth Ann Lowenkron, the plaintiff’s attorney at Disability Rights New Jersey, explained that it is a typical occurrence for a judge to suggest that the parties discuss settlement. Though settlement discussions can be initiated by either parties, in this case, they were ordered by the judge, she added.
“From the plaintiff’s perspective, we are very happy to see if we can resolve this matter and one can go back to living their lives happily as a student and as the University,” Lowenkron said.
Lowenkron noted that the two parties are currently exchanging important documents and that there will likely be discussions between the two parties in the near future.
To move forward, according to Lowenkron, each party will communicate with the judge about its position and the likelihood of reaching a settlement agreement.
Lowenkron noted she cannot comment on the nature of the settlement or her opinion about the likelihood of reaching an agreement.
“We are very grateful for any opportunity to resolve the matter,” she said, “W.P. is interested in resolving it and ensuring circumstances for persons with disabilities at Princeton are improved.”
University Media Relations Specialist Min Pullan declined to comment, explaining that the University does not comment on pending litigations.
William Maderer, attorney for the defendants, did not respond to a request for comment.
In another order issued on Feb. 23, Bongiovanni noted that the formal discovery phase is stayed pending the settlement discussion, as a result of the scheduling conference on that day.
This event marks the latest development in W.P. v Princeton. InJanuary, a federal court judge determined that W.P. may remain anonymous during the discovery phase of the trial.
The lawsuit, initially filedMar. 2014, resulted from a letter sent to W.P. by the University administration that allegedly demanded the plaintiff either take a voluntary withdrawal in the next four days or be mandatorily withdrawn. The letter followed an incident in late Feb. 2012 when the student, then a freshman, swallowed 20 anti-depressant tablets in a suicide attempt and immediately began trying to vomit them out.
After disagreements between W.P. and the University, W.P. was told that he would be banned from returning to campus. The University also allegedly denied W.P.’s requests for alternative accommodations outside campus. The student subsequently filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education.
InOct. 2014, the University filed a motion to partially dismiss the lawsuit, attempting to limit the liabilities of some administrators listed as defendants. Bongiovanni ruled in favor of the motion in June 2015; the decision was overturned this past January.