Beckley Herald LEWISBURG — A lawsuit filed last October by a West Virginia School of Osteopathic student claiming she was sexually harassed by a professor has been settled out of court for $90,000, according to a lawyer representing the medical school.
The lawsuit, filed by fourth-year medical student Isabella Askari, claimed former WVSOM professor Dr. Robert Lafferty “used his position of trust and authority to subject the plaintiff to unwanted sexual remarks, sexual contact, sexual assault and battery.”
The lawsuit also charged WVSOM with discrimination after forcing Askari to pay out of state tuition fees in 2004 when she claimed to be a Lewisburg resident.
Askari, represented by Lewisburg attorney Brandon Johnson, named the medical school, West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine Board of Governors and Dr. Robert Lafferty in the suit.
Court documents filed by Charleston attorney Joanna I. Tabit of Steptoe and Johnson, the firm which represented Lafferty, indicated a settlement was reached by all parties on Feb. 21, but the agreement was sealed.
A copy of the settlement agreement was obtained by The Register-Herald after filing a Freedom of Information Act with Beckley attorney Chip Williams of the law firm Pullin, Fowler & Flanagan, who represented WVSOM in the lawsuit.
In the settlement, Askari agreed to accept $90,000 and waived all claims against “the defendants and administrators.” The agreement also released all parties from any complaints of “gender and ethnicity discrimination … and complaints concerning the alleged wrongful conduct of Dr. Lafferty.”
“This was a blanket release of all claims,” Williams said by phone Monday. “And I am not in a position to comment on the veracity of the allegations.”
In fact, the settlement expressly denies any monies received by Askari as an admission of guilt by the medical school or Lafferty. The suit was settled out of court after negotiations with the State Board of Risk and Management and all parties involved.
Phone messages left on an answering machine at Lafferty’s office in Lewisburg were not immediately returned Monday. Lafferty worked at the medical school from August 2003 until October 2004. WVSOM officials would not disclose the circumstances under which Lafferty left the school in 2004, but the lawsuit stated he was terminated because of his conduct toward Askari.
Messages left for Askari, her attorney Brandon Johnson and Lafferty’s attorney Joanna I. Tabit were also not returned Monday.