U.S. Tennis Association Coach Sexual Assault Case Will Be Decided by Jury

A Florida federal judge has ruled in favor of tennis professional Kylie McKenzie, determining that the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) failed to adequately supervise her coach, Anibal Aranda, who sexually assaulted her. The ruling opens the door to a jury trial.

U.S. District Judge Paul G. Byron, in his recent order, granted partial summary judgment, affirming that an internal USTA investigation verified Aranda’s “engagement in sexual misconduct” with McKenzie in 2018, when she was 19, and also revealed an incident involving the coach four years earlier. The USTA‘s own records documented 31 reports of sexual abuse within the sport between 2013 and 2018, indicating its awareness of the pervasive issue of sexual abuse among amateur athletes, as stated by Judge Byron.

The judge emphasized that since the USTA oversees both the training facility and coaches for athletes in its program, individuals like McKenzie depend on the organization to take reasonable measures to prevent instances of abuse during training sessions and events. McKenzie argued that the USTA shares a “special relationship” with its players, similar to the duty of care universities owe to their adult students, thus imposing an obligation to protect athletes in its training program from sexual assault — a claim the court supported.

McKenzie sought summary judgment solely on her negligence claim, leaving other allegations like battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress for trial. While the USTA pursued summary judgment on all counts, asserting its lack of awareness regarding Aranda’s history of misconduct, Judge Byron rejected their motion, deeming issues of breach and causation appropriate for jury determination.

According to the lawsuit, Aranda arranged practices on a secluded court without surveillance cameras and at times when few people were present, facilitating his assault on McKenzie.

McKenzie had been part of the USTA’s Player Development Program from age 12 to 19, with the assault occurring shortly after Aranda became her full-time coach in November 2018.

Judge Byron highlighted that the USTA did not prohibit relationships between athletes and staff until 2019, suggesting evidence of a culture of sexual misconduct within the training program.

Additionally, the woman involved in the prior incident was a USTA employee who failed to report the assault, even after being promoted to manager of player development. She only came forward following McKenzie’s incident, with the court deeming her inaction unreasonable.

McKenzie is represented by Amy L. Judkins of Newsome Melton PA, along with Robert Allard and Mark J. Boskovich of Cerri, Boskovich & Allard.

The case is McKenzie v. United States Tennis Association Inc. et al., case number 6:22-cv-00615, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

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