Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Article on whether universities have, or should have, a duty to protect students -- UPDATED

Back in October I posted that a California appeals court issued an opinion (with one dissenting judge) reaffirming the generally accepted view that state public colleges and universities do not have a general duty to protect adult students from violent acts by other students.   Go here to read my original post.

In that case, the court ruled that "While colleges and universities may properly adopt policies and provide student services that reduce the likelihood such incidents will occur on their campuses, they are not liable for the criminal wrongdoing of mentally ill third parties, regardless of whether such conduct might be in some sense foreseeable."  And I stated that this approach is not surprising and appears to be the majority view on the issue, whether because the conduct of the actor is considered a superseding cause or whether because of the long standing (although often criticized) rule that there is no duty to help.

In response to the case, the blog "New Private Law" has published a very well written post arguing the case was wrongly decided.  It argues that the case was wrongly decided because the issue in the case is "by far" closer to Tarasoff than to any of the cases that hold universities do not have a duty to protect students.  In support of this conclusion, it argues that "the gist of the complaint is not that the University failed to do enough to enforce general policies (such as those against underage drinking), but rather that the University had reason to believe that a particular student posed a serious danger to his fellow students and other members of the university community.

 You can read the full post here.

UPDATE (12-7-15):  As I reported elsewhere, the Washington Supreme Court is currently considering whether the extend the notion of a therapist's duty to warn identifiable possible victims under a Tarasoff approach, to a duty to warn the general public.  See here.

UPDATE (12-8-15):  Here is another article on the decision in University of California v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, in which the court rejected the request to impose a duty on a university.

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