After two days of mediation, the parents of slain track star Lauren McCluskey did not reach a settlement with the University of Utah over their $56 million lawsuit alleging the school could have done more to protect their daughter.
Jim McConkie, the attorney representing the McCluskeys, described the talks as frank and open but ultimately “unsuccessful.”
“We understand better now what the issues are,” he added Wednesday evening. And “while Jill and Matt McCluskey continue to be disappointed in the University of Utah, they are always willing to discuss and work through differences in the future.”
Now that the talks, which started Tuesday, have ended, the McCluskeys’ federal lawsuit will move forward again with an initial hearing before a judge.
The McCluskeys first sued last June, alleging that campus police at the U. could have prevented their daughter’s murder. Lauren, 21, was fatally shot outside her dorm Oct. 22, 2018, by Melvin S. Rowland, a 37-year-old registered sex offender on parole whom she had briefly dated. He died by suicide hours later.
Lauren, though, had contacted campus police several times in the weeks before that to report that he was harassing her after she ended their relationship. Many of those concerns were not taken seriously, according to a later independent investigation.
The officer never discovered that Rowland was on parole — even though what Lauren was reporting could have sent Rowland back to prison for violating the terms of his release. And the detective who was supposed to look into the case never did; she took several days off before Lauren was killed.
The U. has maintained in response filings, though, that it wasn’t liable for Lauren’s death because her attacker was not affiliated with campus, and it therefore had no control over his actions.
On Wednesday, in a statement about the mediation, the school said that it “hoped to reach an agreement that established a legacy that honored Lauren’s memory and benefitted our students through an enduring commitment to best practices in campus safety.”
It added: “We worked very hard to find common ground and, although we were unable to achieve a resolution, we found the discussions helpful. We appreciate the willingness of the McCluskeys and their attorneys to engage in these efforts. We are hopeful our discussions will continue with the goal of reaching a mutually agreeable outcome.”
In addition to the federal lawsuit, the McCluskeys’ attorneys have drafted a separate and second lawsuit to be filed in state court. That alleges the U. also violated the Utah Constitution, claiming that the school denied Lauren equal protection under the law and discriminated against her because she was a woman.
They had initially agreed to hold off in filing that in the hopes of reaching an agreement this week. It will now be filed and dealt with concurrently in the courts. The new lawsuit will include recent disclosures by the U. that the officer assigned to Lauren’s case displayed an explicit photo she had sent him as evidence she was being extorted.