The University of Montana athletic director and football coach were found not liable for a football player assaulting a Missoula community member in 2018.
According to the Missoulian, Montana defensive end Lorenzo Brown broke Noah Willison’s jaw and knocked out his took at a November 2018 party. Brown, a redshirt freshman at the time, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in January 2019.
In September 2019, Willison filed a negligence lawsuit against the University of Montana, head football coach Bobby Hauck and athletic director Kent Haslam, saying that they violated a “duty to use ordinary care in the recruitment, training, and supervision of (their) scholarship athletes. Defendant Hauck and Defendant Haslam created an atmosphere at the University of Montana in which it was deemed acceptable for underage scholarship athletes to consume alcoholic beverages, become intoxicated, and engage in violent physical altercations.”
Missoula District Court Judge John Larson determined university officials don’t have custody or control over student-athletes and can’t be found liable for their actions at unaffiliated events, according to the Missoulian. Larson dismissed the lawsuit on Feb. 13.
The lawsuit argued that university officials need to be more proactive in stopping athlete misconduct. Hauck, who was rehired in 2017, had a number of allegations against his players while he was the Montana coach from 2003 through 2009, according to 406mtsports.com.
“Given the number of times in the recent past that football players at the University have committed violent acts against Missoula's community members, including acts of assault, rape, and felony burglary, this Court should find that it is completely foreseeable that football players will continue to commit these violent crimes if left unsupervised and unsanctioned by the University,” Larson said when outlining the lawsuit’s argument.
The assault reportedly happened when Brown was at an off-campus party hosted by Willison’s roommate. Willison came home, attempted to shut the party down and Brown “was visibly intoxicated … stood on a table and removed a lightbulb from a light fixture to darken the House (sic) while loudly and vociferously proclaiming that the social gathering at the House would continue.”
Brown left after a brief tussle, but returned and “without warning, punched Noah in the face, dislodging one of Noah’s teeth, loosening several other of Noah’s teeth fracturing Noah’s maxilla (upper jaw).”
Brown was ordered by Missoula Municipal Court Judge Sam Warren in January 2019 to pay more than $27,000 in restitution for Willison’s medical and dental bills. The restitution is to be paid in $100 monthly increments for 22 years.
“I’ve spent at least $5,000, and there’s more to come,” Willison, who didn’t have dental insurance at the time, told the Missoulian when he filed the lawsuit. “My other (front) tooth is wiggly as well.”
“Noah owes the money, he owes it now, and at this rate the restitution will trickle in,” said Willison’s lawyer, Tim Bechtold of Bechtold Law Firm. “The idea (with a lawsuit) is to get those bills paid now.”
Brown is currently listed as a redshirt sophomore on Montana's 2020 roster.