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Late Coach of Riverside High School Accused of Sexually Assaulting 40+ Student Athletes

More than 40 survivors are coming forward to hold Greenville County School District and others accountable years of sexual assault, abuse, and harassment they suffered at the hands of track coach Eric Jay Cummings. Cummings, who coached at RHS until he was placed on administrative leave in early September, later hung himself just days before an accuser came forward publicly with her story.

Per FITS News, “the federal lawsuit will accuse the Greenville County School District — the largest school district in South Carolina — of negligence for allegedly protecting Cummings after officials were aware of his inappropriate and predatory behavior.” The former student accuser, who ran cross country and was coached by Cummings, told a school administrator she had been abused when she was a student, back in 2016, about three weeks before she went to the police.

Why is this case going to federal court?

Cummings abused more than 40 students over the course of a decade. This case could be filed in state court or federal court. Unfortunately, the South Carolina Tort Claims act provides protections for school districts and their employees in suits by students. The school districts and their employees are capped on damages, and the victim of misconduct must usually show gross negligence to succeed in litigation. The school district will probably not be responsible for the actual acts of sexual misconduct by Cummings, but they may be liable for improper supervision, improper hiring or improper disciplinary action. Cummings can be sued in his individual capacity but the actual acts by him may not be imputed to any employer if they were outside the course and scope of his employment.

Due to the fact that the South Carolina Tort Claims Act (remedy available to students under state law) has immunity for certain acts of state employees (such as a coach), it would likely be necessary to explore filing the case as a Title IX claim. Title IX is a federal action that prohibits any type of sexual harassment or sexual acts against a student. There are no caps on damages for this type of action. There also may be an action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for any student who was a victim of Cummings. This is another federal action that is sometimes used in police brutality cases. Once again, neither Title IX nor 1983 actions cap damages for any student abused or assaulted by this coach if they are successful against the school district. In order to abrogate immunity and secure the most fair and just compensatory award, it is likely necessary to use Title IX and 42 U.S.C. 1983 (along with the South Carolina Tort Claims Act) in prosecuting these cases to try and recover compensation for these victims.

Why McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC is the right choice for representation

For years, McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC has fought on behalf of the voiceless and the injured in South Carolina. We have reviewed claims levied against Greenville County School District for failing to protect its student athletes from sexual assault.

The firm has successfully represented victims of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment, and our experienced litigators are licensed to practice in both state and federal court. We have the resources to handle complex litigation in federal court. These cases are often complicated and require experienced counsel.

We fully understand the rights afforded to students under Title IX federal protections, and how schools and school districts can be held accountable if they fail to protect the students in their care. We fight on behalf of survivors who were denied the help they sought, and who were abused by the very people they thought would protect them. This goes beyond the failure of mandated reporters to do what the law requires; allowing the sexual abuse of these student athletes to go on for more than 10 years is, in our opinion, an act of egregious misconduct.

We also understand that the effects of surviving a sexual assault can be long-lasting and far-reaching. Our firm provide a safe and secure place to discuss your case and your needs with a compassionate attorney who treats you with dignity. If you prefer to work with a female attorney, it will be arranged. If you are unable to travel to us, we can arrange to travel to you. We work to ensure that you have access to medical professionals and therapists who are trained to help you with your trauma.

McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC fights for justice on behalf of students and student athletes in South Carolina who have been sexually abused, assaulted, and harassed. If you were hurt by the late Eric Cummings, or if your reports of sexual assault or abuse was ignored by your school or school district, we want to help. Please call us at 803-327-7800 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment.