Spierer lawsuit put on hold, awaiting judge’s ruling

Progress has stalled in a civil negligence lawsuit that missing IU student Lauren Spierer’s parents filed against the three men who were with their daughter the night she disappeared more than two years ago. It has stalled pending a ruling on a dismissal motion the men filed in July and August. 

A closed-door pre-trial conference last Thursday at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in Indianapolis included attorneys representing Rob and Charlene Spierer and the three men they are suing ­— Corey Rossman, Jason “Jay” Rosenbaum and Michael Beth. The parties met with U.S. Southern District Magistrate Judge Tim Baker to create a Case Management Plan.

The plan outlines important dates and deadlines leading up to the trial, which is preliminarily scheduled for December 2014. 

But after the pretrial conference, Judge Baker denied the case management plan, granting a request by the three defendants to delay evidence collection for the case since their motion to dismiss has not yet been accepted nor denied.

“In light of the issues raised in the pending motions to dismiss, as well as Defendants’ expected assertion of their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, the Court grants the Defendants’ request to stay all discovery pending rulings on those motions,” the ruling read.

It is unknown when a ruling will be handed down, but a deputy clerk said Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, who will decide whether to grant the motion to dismiss, has not received requests for oral arguments as of last week. She may decide to rule without a hearing. 

There have been several exchanges between the attorneys representing the involved parties since the Spierers first filed the civil negligence lawsuit in late June,  citing “negligence resulting in the disappearance, death or injury of an adult child.” 

“Rob and Charlene Spierer authorized the filing of this lawsuit with great reluctance and only after we counseled them that they would lose certain legal rights if not exercised by the two-year anniversary of Lauren’s disappearance,” Jason Barclay, attorney for the Spierers, said in a statement in June. Barclay said he hoped the action would not be misinterpreted, as “any parent in search of information about a missing child would use every resource available to them.”

Since their daughter went missing in June 2011, the Spierers have repeatedly alleged that the men in question have withheld pertinent information regarding her disappearance.

“Therefore, we intend to use the rights afforded by the civil justice system to obtain answers to questions that have gone unanswered for too long,” Barclay said in the statement. “We fully expect that those with relevant information will cooperate with this process.”

The men spent time with Lauren Spierer before she disappeared in the early hours of June 3, 2011, after a night of drinking at her fellow students’ residences and at Kilroy’s Sports Bar on North Walnut Street. 

Spierer had drinks with Rossman at Kilroy’s and, according to court documents, Beth tried to persuade Spierer to stay on his couch and Rosenbaum tried to get mutual friends to take her home. But Spierer wanted to return to her own apartment at Smallwood Plaza Apartments on North College Avenue. Rosenbaum watched Spierer leave and is the last known person to have seen her, according to court documents.

Spierer’s boyfriend, Jesse Wolff, reported Spierer missing on the afternoon of June 3, 2011.

In response to the lawsuit, attorneys for Rossman, Rosenbaum and Beth filed a motion to dismiss the case, according to court documents, claiming the men had no legal duty to supervise Spierer and citing a lack of proof that Lauren Spierer is dead or that her disappearance resulted in injury or death. 

The Spierers responded in early August, asking that the case continue into the the discovery phase, which would allow attorneys to question Rossman, Rosenbaum and Beth under oath. The new motion filed by Spierer’s parents said their claim “is very clear in alleging more than just wrongful physical injury and death to Lauren; it also alleges the Defendants’ negligence contributed to Lauren’s disappearance.”

“The Spierers would, of course, welcome any contrary evidence from the Defendants,” the motion says, “that suggests Lauren is still alive.”

Spierer’s disappearance remains under investigation, Bloomington police spokesman Capt. Joe Qualters recently told The Indianapolis Star, and charges have not been filed against anyone in the case.

Follow reporter Katie Mettler on Twitter @kemettler. 

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