WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Defendant Dismissed from Boarding School Lawsuit

Mar 29, 2019

A southeast Iowa judge has dismissed one of the defendants from a lawsuit filed by a group of former students and their families against Midwest Academy and former owner Ben Trane.

The students attended the boarding school in rural Lee County from roughly 2010-2015. They accuse the school, Trane, and a Utah-based company known as Midwest Twister of sexual abuse of students, a lack of proper nutrition, improper training of staff members, fraud, assault, false imprisonment, and battery.

The lawsuit claims Midwest Twister and Midwest Academy are one in the same.

Midwest Twister has argued for several years that it simply owns the land where the school is located and has no other connections to Midwest Academy.

Chief Judge Mary Ann Brown has now sided with Midwest Twister. She said there was no proof presented to her of any connection other than the ownership of the property.

“In this case, the undisputed record before the court is there are two completely different corporate entities, incorporated in two separate states, Midwest Twister L.L.C. [UTAH] and Midwest Academy L.L.C. [IOWA]. That fact alone is enough to establish that Twister should not be liable for the actions or wrongs of Midwest Academy L.L.C,” wrote Brown in her ruling.

“Consequently, the burden falls on the Plaintiffs to provide information to show otherwise. That means the plaintiffs must present facts which would indicate these two corporate entities were acting as one. All the court has from the Plaintiffs on this point are allegations and argument. No facts have been presented to counter the fact that there are two distinct corporate entities involved.”

“Because of the Plaintiff’s failure to challenge that basic undisputed material fact, the court is left to determine that Twister is entitled to judgement as a matter of law and that this action as to Twister should be dismissed.”

Brown also chastised both sides in her response. She said they had several years to prepare yet neither side “saw fit to clean up the records that they submitted to provide the court with a clearer record to evaluate the Motion for Summary Judgement.”

The attorney for Midwest Twister said he had not spoken to his client about the ruling because there is still an opportunity for the dismissal to be appealed.

Attorneys for the students and their families could not be reached for comment.

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