A pair of high-profile civil lawsuits involving former state lawmaker Kelly Atkinson and a Murray woman who accused him of intentionally inflicting emotional distress on her 16-year-old daughter appear headed to trial.
Third District Judge Robin Reese has tossed out several complaints filed against Atkinson by Pam Westbye including assault and battery on her daughter, invasion of privacy, false imprisonment and conspiracy to restrain the teenager in a Mesquite, Nev., casino motel room in May 1997.However, Reese denied Atkinson's request to dismiss the emotional distress claim at a May 14 hearing and said it will be "a jury question" to determine whether the West Jordan man acted in an "outrageous" manner toward the girl during a Memorial Day 1997 golf outing to Nevada.
Westbye, who was fired by Atkinson last fall from her job as a secretary with the Utah School Employees Association, also filed a sexual discrimination complaint with the state. She charged that Atkinson had created a hostile work environment for women in the Utah School Employees Association office.
Atkinson was subsequently fired from his post as executive director of the association after an internal investigation, and West-bye was reinstated. Atkinson had served as chief executive of the 7,000-member union for nine years.
His deputy executive director, Richard McGuire, was also dismissed after the probe and was also sued by the Westbyes on behalf of their daughter.
Their suit hinged on allegations McGuire and Atkinson engaged in a "Truth or Dare" game with their daughter and another teenage girl in the motel room that led to the other girl "modeling" a swimming suit for the two men.
Both men contend the incident was harmless and say they did not touch the girls or engage in any inappropriate behavior.
But the Westbyes say otherwise and are seeking damages, including compensation for counseling costs for emotional distress they say was inflicted on both the mother and daughter.
Atkinson is countersuing the Westbyes for intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, abuse of process and interference with his contract as a Utah School Employees Association executive that led to what he contends was "unlawful termination" by his former employer.
In the May 14 hearing, Judge Reese dismissed Atkinson's abuse of process claims against the Westbyes but denied the couple's request for dismissal of the other three counterclaims.
Reese also agreed to let Atkinson amend his suit to include a claim for damages after attorney Mark Quinn said the West Jordan man has had ongoing problems with "nausea, sleeplessness and anxiety" ever since the Westbyes filed their legal action.
"What are we doing to resolve this suit?" the judge asked Atkinson's lead attorney, Dale F. Gardner. "Is mediation a possibility?"
"I'm not sure the case can be mediated," Gardner replied, adding that the litigation is so "personal" to Atkinson that a trial probably is inevitable.
Attorney Robert Wilde, who is representing the Westbyes, said after the hearing that his clients welcome the opportunity to prove their case at trial and will call witnesses to refute the counterclaims.
When asked for his reaction to the judge's rulings, Atkinson said, "I don't have any comment - not to the Deseret News."
Atkinson, also a former congressional candidate, ran for mayor of West Jordan last fall but was defeated by a landslide vote after media disclosures of past sexual improprieties.