FERRUM — Abe Naff’s pursuit of a legal remedy with regards to his firing as Ferrum College’s Director of Athletics has sustained a setback at the state level.
An amended $30 million lawsuit filed in the Circuit Court of Franklin County by Naff and his attorneys has been dismissed with prejudice by the court in a final order entered on Monday, April 19, according to information released to the media by attorney Todd Leeson of Gentry-Locke in Roanoke, the firm representing Ferrum College.
In a seven-page written decision, the court “concluded that there was no merit to Naff’s claims of defamation, intentional inflection of emotional distress, or negligent infliction of emotional distress,” Leeson said in an email to The Franklin News-Post, adding that Ferrum College “has no further comment” on the decision
Roanoke attorney John P. Fishwick, who is representing Naff, said in an email to the News-Post that he plans to appeal the decision rendered by Judge Stacey W. Moreau of Chatham, 22nd Judicial Circuit.
“We are going to appeal the decision from the Franklin County Circuit Court in Abe Naff’s case,” Fishwick said. “We look forward to the opportunity to present our arguments to the Virginia Supreme Court.”
Naff was fired from the Athletic Director’s post, a position he held for 15 years (2004-2019), on June 28 of 2019. His attorneys claimed that Naff was “unjustly and unfairly terminated” and that plaintiff (Naff) has been and continues to be adversely affected by the acts of the defendant (Ferrum College) and its agents.
The court was required to decide whether plaintiff (Naff) “has pled actionable claims for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and whether plaintiff (Naff) is barred from recovering on his defamation claim under the applicable statute of limitations.”
In the first count of the suit, Ferrum’s demurrer was sustained “because the plaintiff (Naff) has failed to set forth sufficient facts to support a cause of action for defamation, defamation by implication or defamation per se.”
In the second count of the suit, the court found “that plaintiff (Naff) has failed to state facts sufficient to establish that (Ferrum’s) conduct was outrageous or intolerable and failed to establish a causal connection between defendant’s (Ferrum’s) conduct and the emotional distress,” thus Ferrum’s demurrer was sustained.
In the third count, the court found that plaintiff (Naff) “has set forth in his amended complaint typical symptoms of an emotional disturbance, not a physical injury, therefore, the plaintiff (Naff) has failed to set forth sufficient facts for a cause of action of negligent infliction of emotional distress,” thus Ferrum’s demurrer was sustained.
In the statute of limitations plea, the court found “that all articles, including those dated June 27, 2019, “are properly before the court, finding they relate back to the original filing.
“Also, the statute of limitations was extended by 126 days because of the Declaration of Judicial Emergency for all but a portion of the June 27 state, thus the Pea in Bar is overruled.
By agreement of the parties. a Motion Craving Oyer is granted as to a series of proposed exhibits and denied on one exhibit.
Naff also filed a charge of age and disability discrimination with the Federal EEOC, but the EEOC dismissed that charge. Leeson said “Naff has the legal right to continue to pursue those claims in court.”
Also, there is a pending wrongful termination lawsuit that’s been filed by Naff in U.S. District Court in Roanoke. It seeks $4 million. A March 2022 trial date has been set.
Naff, a graduate of Lynchburg College and a former baseball player for the Hornets, was hired in 1984 as Ferrum’s head baseball coach. He served 23 years in the post and compiled a 643-236-3 career record.
Naff led the Panthers to 10 USA South Athletic Conference baseball championships, 10 NCAA Division III regional playoff appearances and a berth in the junior college regional in his first year as head coach, which was Ferrum’s final year as a competitor in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).
The Panthers were a seven-time regional runner-up during Naff’s coaching tenure.
Naff replaced Ted Kinder as Athletic Director in 2004 and was head baseball coach and athletic director until his retirement from baseball at the end of the 2007 season.
Naff is a 1977 graduate of Franklin County High School and was the starting catcher for the Eagles’ Group AAA state runner-up squad that spring.
Naff is a member of hall of fame at FCHS, Lynchburg and Ferrum and is enshrined in the Salem-Roanoke Baseball Hall of Fame.
Naff served as athletic director under three Ferrum presidents.
Current Ferrum Director of Athletics John Sutyak replaced Naff in the post.