Nebraska State Insurer Seeks Pass in Missing Student Lawsuit

By MARGERY A. BECK | November 25, 2014

The insurance company for the state has asked a judge to declare that it has no duty to pay any award made against the Nebraska State Colleges Board of Trustees in a lawsuit over the 2010 disappearance of a Peru State College student whose mother believes she was killed by a fellow student.

The request comes in the lawsuit filed by the mother of Tyler “Ty” Thomas, 19, a Peru State College student who disappeared after leaving a party. Authorities say fellow student Joshua Keadle told them he and Thomas had sex in his vehicle that night, and Keadle later told investigators Thomas threatened to report he had raped her.

Keadle, who is now serving 15 to 20 years for the 2008 rape of a 15-year-old Fremont girl, has not been charged in Thomas’ disappearance. The state issued a death certificate for Thomas last year, though her body has not been found.

Thomas’ mother, LaTanya Thomas, is suing college officials and Keadle for wrongful death. Nebraska’s policy with Travelers Indemnity Co. includes an agreement that the insurance company will defend the state and pay damages for bodily injury for which the state is found liable.

But in its motion filed Wednesday, Travelers notes the lawsuit’s claim that college officials violated Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools. Travelers says the policy contains a clause exempting it from paying if bodily injury results “from or as a consequence of discrimination, whether intentional or unintentional, based upon a person’s sex.”

Attorneys for Travelers and the state college board did not immediately return phone messages Thursday.

An attorney for LaTanya Thomas said the case is not about sex discrimination, but sexual harassment.

“We’re not claiming that she did not get a job or that she was denied an opportunity to take a certain class because it was men only,” Lincoln attorney Vince Powers said. “What we’re saying is that they had a duty to protect her from sex harassment, and of course, rape and murder is the worst kind of harassment.”

If the insurance company’s motion is granted, any judgment awarded in the lawsuit would be paid with public money, Powers said.

“Travelers wants the taxpayers on the hook,” Powers said.

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