USA Water Polo, International Water Polo Club, and a former coach recently agreed to a $14 million settlement, ending a lawsuit alleging sexual assault.
A settlement was recently announced to bring an end to a lawsuit filed against a former California water polo coach, USA Water Polo, and International Water Polo Club over allegations of sexual abuse. The suit was filed by 12 female water polo players and settled for $14 million.
USA Water Polo “sanctions local clubs in the sport” and International Water Polo Club is a club in Los Alamitos, a city in Orange County, Calif., that was led by the coach, Bahram Hojreh. According to the lawsuit, the 12 players alleged that from 2012 to 2017, Horjeh “abused them during what were supposed to be one-on-one coaching sessions in the water.” During those sessions, the coach would “grab their breasts and reach under their bathing suits and sexually assaulted them.” The players claimed Hojreh “told the players that they needed to fight him off and that what he was doing was showing them techniques they would have to deal with while playing in college.”
In addition to the suit, the incidents resulted in Hojreh being slapped with almost three dozen criminal charges. So far, he has pleaded not guilty to those charges. The charges include “nine counts of sexual battery and one count of performing a lewd or lascivious act with a child under 14.”
According to Morgan Stewart, one of the lawyers representing 11 of the plaintiffs, the $13.85 million settlement was filed in Orange County Superior Court last week. Funds for the settlement will come from the insurance company representing USA Water Polo and International Water Polo Club. In a recent interview about the matter, Stewart said the lawsuit “highlighted the need for systemic change in how the sport was governed” and noted that USA Water Poli “collects fees and club memberships from the clubs they sanction, but then they refuse to supervise and they refuse to really train in any meaningful manner these club teams and their president.” He added:
“That situation creates an unreasonable risk to minors participating in club programs…You’re going to create an environment that might be ripe for sexual abuse.”
While commenting on the settlement announcement, Christopher Ramsey, chief executive for USA Water Polo, said, “We have heard the plaintiff’s testimony, and their allegations are heartbreaking.” He added that he hopes the “settlement allows them to begin a new chapter in their lives.”
To make matters worse, Stewart said Hojreh “presented himself to players and their parents as a major figure in the world of water polo.” On top of that, the coach “told his players that they had to endure the sexual assault in order to play at a higher level…And that’s how he kept them silent for a number of years, by basically threatening their future careers.”