Jury: Coach Caused Eating Disorder

Jennifer Besler Eating disorder
A former New Jersey high school basketball player who claims her eating disorder stemmed from her coach's request that she lose 10 pounds has won a $1.5 million jury award.

The civil suit filed by Jennifer Besler, 25, and her father, Philip, claimed Daniel Hussong verbally abused her during the 1995-96 season. The Mercer County jury reached its verdict Wednesday, ending a four-month trial, and was to return Thursday to determine whether punitive damages should be awarded.

Philip Besler was awarded $100,000 because the jury found that he was unfairly barred from speaking at a January 1997 school board meeting. The school district, which also was named as a defendant in the suit and is liable for the awards, said it disagreed with the verdict but had not decided whether to file an appeal.

Neither the Beslers nor Hussong, who coached at the school in 1990s, would comment on the verdict. The jury initially awarded Jennifer Besler $3 million, but reduced it after finding that she has not done enough to mitigate her damages.

Besler, who graduated from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School in 1996, has resisted treatment for her disorder and continues to take diet pills and exercise excessively, according to testimony in the case.

The Trenton Times reports that according to witnesses, some parents had complained about how Hussong, who yelled, swore and threw clipboards, had treated their children since 1991. But other parents praised Hussong, who racked up a record of 247 victories and 120 losses during his 15 years as a WW-P girls coach.

School board president Stephen Smith told the Times he was surprised by the ruling, but reiterated the need for an appeal to yesterday's verdict.
"The board continues to believe there is no basis for findings of liability against itself and I assume we'll be discussing the possibility of appeals," Smith said.