Tailhook group, female aviator reach settlement

September 09, 1994|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Four days before the trial of a lawsuit over the bawdy 1991 convention of a naval aviators' group, the Tailhook Association, in Las Vegas, Nev., the group reached a settlement with the plaintiff, a former Navy lieutenant who was among the women sexually abused there.

The settlement was disclosed yesterday afternoon by lawyers for the Tailhook Association and Paula A. Coughlin, who filed the lawsuit last year.

The lawyers declined to discuss the terms, saying in their joint statement only that the case "has been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of both parties."

The settlement leaves the Las Vegas Hilton, where the convention was held, as the only remaining defendant.

In her lawsuit, which sought an unspecified amount in damages, Ms. Coughlin accused the Tailhook Association of failing to supervise the convention properly and the Las Vegas Hilton of negligence in failing to implement better security even though the hotel had been the scene of prior drunken Tailhook conventions.

The judge presiding over the case has scheduled a settlement conference today.

But by late yesterday, people close to the matter said that the hotel and Ms. Coughlin were not near a settlement and that they were preparing their opening statements for a trial that is scheduled to begin Monday in federal district court in Las Vegas.

The events at the rowdy convention and the subsequent inquiries shook the highest levels of the Navy.

Pentagon investigators concluded that 83 women had been assaulted or harassed there by drunken aviators.

One was Ms. Coughlin, who was then a Navy helicopter pilot. She has said that she was groped by drunken male aviators in a crowded third-floor corridor one night during the four-day convention.

Ms. Coughlin resigned from the service on May 31.

She cited what she described as unrelenting pressure resulting from her complaint.

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