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Judge throws out lawsuit by Kansas City teen who claimed athletic club failed to stop abuse

080520_KC Racquet Club.jpg_carlos moreno
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR
The Kansas City Racquet Club in Merriam, Kansas, where Adrienne Jensen trained.

Adrienne Jensen’s former coach, Rex Haultain, pleaded guilty in 2013 to soliciting child pornography and was sentenced to 78 months in federal prison.

A once top-ranked high school tennis player has lost her bid to hold the United States Tennis Association and the Kansas City Racquet Club liable for negligently failing to prevent her coach from sexually abusing her.

U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum ruled on Monday that Adrienne Jensen’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations and granted the two defendants’ motions for summary judgment.

Jensen’s former coach, Rex Haultain, pleaded guilty in 2013 to soliciting child pornography and was sentenced to 78 months in federal prison. He was released in 2019 and deported to his native New Zealand.

Jensen was a top-ranked high school player in Iowa who aspired to play in the Olympics. She moved to Kansas City with her parents in 2009, when she was 14, in order to train with Haultain, who worked at the Kansas City Racquet Club in Merriam, Kansas.

In her lawsuit, which was filed nearly two years ago when she was in her mid-20s, Jensen alleged that Haultain “methodically groomed and manipulated” her, first by texting her and later by exposing himself to her, demanding nude pictures from her, pressuring her to have sex with him and ultimately penetrating her.

On an airplane trip to Las Vegas for a tournament in 2010, when Jensen was 15, Haultain placed her hand on his penis multiple times, according to Jensen’s lawsuit. On another trip to Alabama that year for a tournament, he abused her in a hotel room by massaging her and instructing her to remove her bra. And on a trip to Arizona at the end of that year, he sexually assaulted her and penetrated her.

Jensen reported the abuse to her parents in January 2011 and stopped training with him.

In his ruling, Lungstrum said it was clear Jensen understood on the plane to Las Vegas that Haultain’s abuse was wrong at the time because she admitted she was “mortified” by his conduct and pulled his hand away.

In Nevada, the relevant statute of limitations is two years once the plaintiff reaches the age of 18. Because Jensen turned 18 in February 2013, the statute of limitations on her negligence claims expired in February 2015, Lungstrum said.

And because she didn’t file her lawsuit until June 2020, Lungstrum ruled her claims were time-barred.

Annie Alonzo, one of Jensen’s attorneys, said she and her colleagues were considering two options: appealing Lungstrum’s ruling or refiling the lawsuit in Arizona, whose statute of limitations wouldn't prevent the case from going forward.

“We haven’t decided yet which one we’re going to do,” Alonzo said.

The United States Tennis Association, or U.S.T.A., did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on Lungstrum's ruling.

The U.S.T.A. is the national governing body for tennis and is responsible for certifying coaches in the U.S. Its “Safe Play” program prohibits child abuse and sexual misconduct and requires a check of coaches’ criminal backgrounds.

Jensen alleged that the SafePlay database did not contain a list of banned coaches and that a search for Haultain’s name in the database yielded no results.

Other lawsuits in recent years allege that the U.S.T.A. failed to tell young tennis players and their parents about dozens of cases of coaches suspected to be sexual predators.

Pending lawsuits in California charge that the U.S.T.A. knew or should have known of sexual assault allegations against tennis coach Normandie Burgos but failed to inform athletes’ parents. Burgos was sentenced in 2019 to 255 years in prison for molesting two teens.

As a reporter covering breaking news and legal affairs, I want to demystify often-complex legal issues in order to expose the visible and invisible ways they affect people’s lives. I cover issues of justice and equity, and seek to ensure that significant and often under-covered developments get the attention they deserve so that KCUR listeners and readers are equipped with the knowledge they need to act as better informed citizens. Email me at dan@kcur.org.
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