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Mistrial declared in fired Penn State football team doctor's lawsuit over 2019 ouster

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A mistrial was declared Monday during opening arguments of a trial in a lawsuit by a fired Penn State football team doctor, who alleged he was ousted after complaining to school officials about pressure to clear players to return from injuries.

Dauphin County Court Judge Andrew Dowling declared the mistrial after the defense attorney mentioned that Penn State's football coach, James Franklin, and Penn State Athletics had been dropped years ago from the lawsuit filed by Dr. Scott Lynch, PennLive reported.

An immediate objection from Lynch's lawyer led to a closed-door conference. When the judge returned he noted that Franklin and Penn State Athletics had been dismissed from the suit in April 2020 over a filing deadline issue, not over the merits of the suit. He said the mention of the dismissal had prejudiced the jury.

A new trial has been set for May 20. The defense vowed to appeal Dowling’s ruling.

Lynch filed suit in 2019 alleging that he was ousted from his roles as Penn State’s director of athletic medicine and orthopedic consultant to the football team following repeated clashes with Franklin. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages from Penn State Health and his former supervisor.

Before the mistrial, Lynch's attorney, Steven Marino, alleged that the coach tried on multiple occasions to interfere with Lynch’s medical decisions to get injured players back to the field.

Franklin and Penn State have denied those allegations. Penn State Health maintains that Lynch was ousted because he lacked a primary residence in State College and a local doctor would better suit the health and welfare of university athletes.

Defense attorney Sarah Bouchard, representing Penn State Health, accused Lynch of harboring personal animosity toward Franklin, who became coach during Lynch’s second year as the team’s doctor. Despite the clashes, she said, Lynch never had any of his medical decisions overruled.

Bouchard also said Lynch, an orthopedic surgeon, remains director of sports medicine at Penn State Health and earns "over a half-million dollars a year.” Marino said Lynch’s role with Penn State football and Penn State Athletics “carried with it a level of prestige” and “cast him into a national spotlight," which was stripped away. He told jurors they could consider “damage to reputation, humiliation, and embarrassment” in calculating compensatory damages.