News - December 8, 2010

Coach says he'll re-file lawsuit against Encinal School PTO

by Renee Batti

A former volunteer coach for an Encinal School basketball team who is suing the Encinal School PTO and three volunteer parents said he will re-file his complaint after a San Mateo County Superior Court judge ruled on Nov. 29 that his original complaint was insufficient.

Lawrence Hecimovich, the father of two boys and coach for two years of his older son's after-school team, filed a lawsuit last August against the PTO and PTO officers Kelly Perri, Julie Roth, and Leslie Burke after he was stripped of his coaching position. His lawsuit lists libel and slander, negligence, infliction of emotional distress, and fraud.

In a Nov. 29 court hearing, Judge Gerald Buchwald granted the defendants' demurrer challenging the legal sufficiency of the claims against them, according to attorney Robert Muhlbach, who represents the defendants. Judge Buchwald gave Mr. Hecimovich a chance to re-file the complaint, which he would have to do by late December.

But the judge denied the defendants' motion to dismiss the lawsuit entirely — a motion based on California's "anti-SLAPP" law, which prohibits lawsuits brought primarily for the purpose of intimidating others into making concessions rather than face a costly court fight.

Mr. Muhlbach said his clients have up to 60 days to appeal that decision. "We believe the court's ruling is erroneous, and are considering an appeal," he said.

Mr. Hecimovich, a deputy city attorney for San Francisco, is seeking reinstatement as a head coach in the Encinal basketball program, punitive damages in an unspecified amount, and attorney fees and costs associated with the lawsuit.

"I drafted the complaint not to initiate a legal action but rather to initiate a dialogue that the PTO had been avoiding, hoping to avert this dispute and return to coaching this season," Mr. Hecimovich said in an e-mail. "Accordingly, I did not include much of what happened and in particular did not give a lot of thought as to how to frame the legal claims.

"Now that the (PTO) has rejected that overture and filed a cross-action, which the court immediately dismissed, I will proceed with an amended complaint and anticipate that any further motions to challenge the complaint will be denied and we will proceed in court."


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