Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Family of Rutgers student who committed suicide files notice of claim against the university
The family of Tyler Clementi, the student who committed suicide in September after video of his inimate encounter with another man was broadcast on the internet, has filed a notice of claim against Rutgers University. The notice contends the university failed to protect Clementi against “unlawful or otherwise improper acts." “It appears Rutgers University failed to act, failed to put in place and/or failed to implement, and enforce policies and practices that would have prevented or deterred such acts, and that Rutgers failed to act timely and appropriately,” the notice reads. myCentralJersy.com has the story. I have not read the notice so I can't comment in detail, but from this short statement it sounds to me the claim is not particularly strong. Unless the University had imposed on itself a duty to protect or help, the court is not likely to find a duty existed because, as you probably know, there is no duty to help at common law. There are many cases out there that have addressed the possible liability of a University to protect its students from dangers and temptation that are inherent in university life. I don't think many have been successful, although I admit I have not researched the question in some time. I wonder what the plaintiffs are going to argue the school could have done - or more accurately, had a duty to do. Also, the defendants are likely to argue that the decedent's decision to commit suicide operates as a superseding cause. Thanks to TortsProf blog for the update and the link.