Can Colleges Be Held Liable For Negligence When Students Are Attacked?

It seems as though we hear about students being assaulted on college campuses every week, and what follows is sometimes the university denying the assault, campus police botching the investigation, and politicians calling for a strong resolution to this growing problem.

While many students and their families are, understandably, focused on obtaining justice after a crime like this is committed, many do not realize that, outside of the relevant criminal justice issues involved, some courts are additionally finding universities and other facilities liable for attacks under premises liability law, as these attacks can give rise to a claim for negligence.

Premises Liability

Premises liability describes the responsibility of a landowner to ensure that premises are safe for anyone legally on or using those premises. Specifically, landowners must exercise reasonable care and warn of any hazards or risks that could lead to injury. If you are injured while on property that belongs to someone else (whether that is an individual, a company, an institution, etc.), the owner of that property can be held responsible if the accident/injury was caused by the landowner’s negligence. Under this legal theory, victims can seek compensation for medical expenses, any relevant lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Negligence on School Campuses

Universities, aware of the potential for students to be attacked, must prepare adequate safety measures to protect their students. When they fail to do so, they arguably commit negligence, particularly if they fail to provide security in an area where there have been attacks before.

This knowledge and potential to take action to prevent attacks is important to a negligence claim. But what is perhaps even more important is establishing that the school owed its students a particular duty, especially because students are technically independent adults. While historically, courts were hesitant to assign a general duty of protection on the part of universities, some courts have drawn a distinction between this and basic efforts to ensure that students are safe while on school premises, finding in favor of students victimized while on campus.

Students attacked on Louisiana campuses and elsewhere have brought claims against the University, its Board of Supervisors, and the Chancellor for failing to protect them from being severely injured in a physical attack. Specifically, the claims are for the University failing to enforce safety and security measures to help prevent attacks and failing to have locked entrances, fencing, and security cameras to protect students living on campus. Universities have a duty to take basic steps to ensure that students on their campus are safe from being attacked.

Harrell & Nowak

If you have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, a personal injury accident attorney at our practice can guide you through every step of the judicial process. Harrell & Nowak is experienced in premises liability and negligence, with a history of success working on personal injury, premises liability, and negligence claims such as obtaining a $375,000 settlement for a premises liability case, whereby our client suffered serious injuries when the balcony of a building collapsed while he was standing on it. Contact our office today for a free consultation.