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Chad Hudgens' lawsuit alleging he had been "waterboarded" by his former Provo employer in 2007 has been given new life by the Utah Supreme Court.
The state's high court overturned a lower court's dismissal of the lawsuit and sent the case back for further proceedings, including a chance for Hudgens' lawyer to amend the suit.
Hudgens worked for Prosper, a financial-coaching company, in 2007. He alleges in his lawsuit that on May 29 that year, Joshua Christopherson, Hudgens' former supervisor, took his sales team to a hill next to their office in the Provo Riverbottoms and asked Hudgens to lie down, with his head downhill.
Christopherson was accused of pouring a gallon of water on Hudgens' face as part of a training exercise. He reportedly told the employees they should work as hard at making sales as Hudgens did to breathe during the exercise.
Hudgens, who was 26 at the time, volunteered in order to "prove his loyalty and determination," the suit claims.
Company officials denied their employee's version of the story and 4th District Judge Gary Stott dismissed the lawsuit, which by then had garnered national attention. Stott ruled Hudgens did not prove that Christopherson and Prosper deliberately tried to hurt him during the so-called waterboarding incident.
Hudgens attorney later tried to amend the lawsuit, but Stott denied the request.
The justices did not rule on the facts of the "waterboarding" claims, but primarily narrowed their decision on one issue, saying Stott had failed to provide adequate reasons for the denial.
"We determine that the district court exceeded the bounds of its discretion. We reverse the district court's order denying Mr. Hudgens' motion for leave to amend and remand for further proceedings," the high court judges wrote in their decision.
Prosper's attorneys, Evan Schmutz and Andy Wright, expect the case will be refiled with amended claims. Schmutz and Wright said they will then file a motion for dismissal and await a new ruling.
"Prosper has an outstanding record of treating its employees very well, being a good corporate citizen and providing one of the best working environments in Utah," said Schmutz. "Prosper is disappointed in the Supreme Court's decision; however, the decision cannot be read to favor or support plaintiff's claim[s]."
Neither Hudgens' attorney nor his client returned phone calls on Tuesday seeking comment on the ruling.