Jimmy Williams trial still lingering

The Minnesota Court of Appeals is allowing Williams’ negligent misrepresentation claim against the University to proceed in court.

When Tubby Smith was hired in 2007, a lawsuit against the University of Minnesota wasnâÄôt one of Gophers basketball fansâÄô expectations. Nearly a year-and-a-half later, Jimmy WilliamsâÄô lawsuit against the Board of Regents and Athletics Director Joel Maturi carries on. On March 31, the Minnesota Court of Appeals decided to allow the negligent misrepresentation claim to proceed in the district court, overruling the initial dismissal of all 12 independent claims by the Hennepin County District Court. One of SmithâÄôs first tasks was to hire a core of assistant coaches, and he offered a job to Williams who worked as an assistant coach for Oklahoma State University at the time. But Maturi did not want to hire Williams because of allegations of NCAA violations during his tenure as an assistant coach with the Gophers in the 1970s and 1980s. Smith gave Williams a $200,000 coaching offer, according to the civil complaint, and Williams left his job with OSU and sold his house in there. After Maturi did not approve the hiring, WilliamsâÄô filed a civil contract lawsuit in October 2007. When Williams and his attorneys initially brought the lawsuit to Hennepin County District Court, Judge Regina Chu dismissed all 12 independent claims claiming her court lacked jurisdiction, but now one of the claims has been reinstated by the Court of Appeals. WilliamsâÄô attorney Richard Hunegs said he thinks the law works in WilliamsâÄô favor and is confident the Hennepin County judges and juries will make a decision for Williams. The next step in the trial is a scheduling conference on May 6 , which will involve University lawyers, Hunegs and a judge setting dates for additional discovery and possibly the trial date. Hunegs said he would like the trial to proceed as soon as possible because this case has hindered WilliamsâÄô ability to find a coaching job. âÄúJimmyâÄôs income is very, very limited, and heâÄôs living off savings basically,âÄù Hunegs said. âÄúHeâÄôs been impaired in finding a coaching job by this cloud that hangs over him.âÄù Williams hasnâÄôt been receiving other job offers because of the lingering situation in Minnesota, Hunegs said. Williams is currently working with former NBA player and coach John Lucas Jr. developing young basketball players in Houston, he said. Despite only one claim remaining, HunegâÄôs said his goal is for Williams to inevitably receive the job he was offered by Smith. But with the negligence claim being the only claim remaining, University law professor Laura Cooper said the court could not force the University to hire Williams. Although only one claim was appealed, both parties can ask the Minnesota Supreme Court to add or dismiss claims. Even if the Supreme Court reinstates some of the claims, Cooper said a judge would probably not force the University to hire Williams and would probably determine a monetary value for the University. âÄúIn most cases the law presumes that you can set a price on just about anything,âÄù she said. âÄúIf someone breaches a contract the remedy is usually a monetary sum that reflects the harm thatâÄôs done rather than saying you have to do what youâÄôre supposed to do under the contract.âÄù University Associate General Counsel Brian Slovut said the University is considering bringing the case to the Minnesota Supreme Court for dismissal and said the one remaining claim could be dropped before trial. âÄúWe believe that thereâÄôs additional bases for the dismissal of this claim,âÄù Slovut said. Maturi said he would not comment on the ongoing lawsuit.