Schools May Be Liable For Harm Suffered By Students

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matt Arnold answers the question: “Can I post about my injury on Social Media?”


For years, the rule across the country has been that colleges and universities are not legally responsible for criminal acts that occur on campus that lead to harm suffered by a student. The theory has been that colleges cannot prevent the illegal actions of third parties and have no special duty to protect the students on campus. This has shielded schools from a number of potentially expensive lawsuits over the years, with plaintiffs choosing not to waste time filing personal injury or wrongful death suits that were destined to be dismissed by courts.


Berry-college-Charlotte-Injury-Lawyer-Lake-Norman-Car-Accident-Attorney-300x225Thanks to a recent decision by the California Supreme Court, that may be about to change. The case at issue concerned a student at UCLA, Katherine Rosen, who was attacked by a classmate in a science lab nine years ago. The perpetrator was a young man with well-known mental issues, the school had been aware that he had experienced delusions and had previously threatened physical harm on other students.


The victim’s attorney has argued that UCLA failed to act to protect Katherine, never warning her of the danger she was in nor taking action to remove the other student from the classroom. By failing to act, the argument put forward by the plaintiff is that UCLA should be held legally liable for the consequences of its failures. Though the perpetrator was behind bars, having been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, the college should be on the hook for damages.


UCLA, for its part, argued that it was not negligent in this case because it could not be held responsible for the criminal actions of a third party that happen to take place on the grounds of the school. UCLA argued they owed no special duty of care to the student. The plaintiff said the opposite, that as a student, the school had a special relationship to provide care and take reasonable actions to ensure her safety.


The case made its way to the state Supreme Court who agreed with the plaintiff. According to the Court, colleges must, “Protect students from foreseeable violence during curricular activities.” So what exactly does that mean? That is not entirely clear at this point. The Court stated that liability may not follow in every possible setting on a college campus, but it should apply in cases where the school exercises some degree of control over the environment or student behavior. In this case, a classroom would clearly qualify. The Court noted the duty of care owed to students extends to those activities that are tied to the school’s curriculum, but not necessarily to those behaviors over which the school has little control. Does that mean the cafeteria qualifies? What about dorm rooms? No one knows precisely yet and it may take some time and future cases to test the limits of this new rule, but many expect future cases to do just that.


Though the Supreme Court issued a ruling that was clearly in favor of the plaintiff, the particulars of the case still need to be decided. The case will now be sent back to the district court level where the decision will need to be made about whether the actions taken by UCLA were enough to meet the duty they owed to the student. If not, the school could be found liable for big money.


If you or someone close to you has been injured, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today who can help you receive the compensation to which you may be entitled. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC for a free consultation, call at 704-370-2828 or click here for additional resources.







The skilled personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to maximizing the financial recovery and obtaining justice for every personal injury client injured by another party’s negligence. The issues our personal injury clients may be facing include, but are not limited to, slip and fall injuries, wrongful death, product liability, catastrophic injuries, dog bite claims, car and truck accident injuries, motorcycle injuries, traumatic brain injury (TBI), nursing home negligence, spinal cord injury, boating accidents, and defective medical device injury. Our personal injury attorneys understand the devastating impact such an injury can have on a person’s life, and that the effects so often go beyond physical pain and suffering. The personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to helping clients determine the strength of their claims, and to aggressively pursuing the means necessary to achieve the best possible end result for each client’s particular situation.





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