Northwestern professor files defamation suit against student who accused him of sexual assault

By Bethany Krajelis | Oct 28, 2014

A Northwestern University professor who was accused in February of making unwanted sexual advances toward a student sued that student today, claiming her allegedly false accusations not only defamed him, but interfered with his current and prospective employment.

Filed Tuesday in the Cook County Circuit Court, Peter Ludlow’s lawsuit includes four counts against the female student: defamation, false light invasion of privacy, intentional inference with an employment contract and intentional inference with prospective employment. He is seeking $30,000 in damages on each count.

Ludlow’s lawsuit marks the latest lawsuit in the matter -- at least the fifth --  since the student sued the university in federal court in February, when she claimed it did not do enough following the filing of a formal sexual assault complaint against the philosophy professor she previously took a course with.

That same month, the undergraduate student filed a state court suit against Ludlow, alleging violations of the Gender Violence Act and again reiterating her claims he got her drunk after an off-campus art event in February 2012, made unwelcome sexual advances and brought her back to his apartment, where she woke up the next day in his arms.

Also in February, Ludlow sued a few media outlets for using the phrase “allegedly raped” in the headline of a story about the student’s sexual assault allegations, contending it constituted defamation. And in June, he lodged a federal lawsuit against Northwestern, accusing it of gender discrimination, defamation and invasion of privacy.

It appears three of the four lawsuits filed prior to today remain pending. A judge in July tossed Ludlow’s state court defamation complaint against the media outlets based on the fair-report privilege, but it looks like he is appealing that ruling.

Ludlow, in the action filed today, claims the student propositioned him at the February 2012 art event and he refused her advances.

He contends the student, in the days following, tried to reach him by phone, text and social media, and after he said he didn’t want to date her, she told professors Ludlow had sexually assaulted her, leading to the filing of the formal complaint with the university.

Ludlow acknowledges the university determined he violated its sexual harassment policy in April 2012, but stresses in his suit it “specifically declined to find that any sexual assault had occurred.”

According to Ludlow’s complaint, the student, after the university issued its finding, sent emails to at least one professor and did television interviews in which he asserts she made false statements about him.

He further alleges the students’ allegedly defamatory statements put him in a false light before the public and interfered with his employment at Northwestern, as well as prospective employment at Rutgers University.

In his suit, Ludlow contends the student’s statements have caused damage to his reputation, emotional distress, humiliation and embarrassment, as well as lost income and benefits.

He is being represented by Kristin Case and Kate Sedey at Case Law Firm in Chicago.

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