Colleges and Liability
In general, colleges aren’t responsible for protecting adult students from crimes. Before the 1960s, colleges assumed a parental role concerning students on their campuses. This doctrine, known as In Loco Parentis, translates to “in the place of a parent.” However, in the 1960s, university students pushed to be viewed as independent people rather than children still under the purview of their parents. Under the reforms that followed, students took on more responsibility for their safety, and colleges assumed less liability.
However, students and families still do have a right to expect universities to take reasonable steps to provide a safe atmosphere. Schools often tout their safety statistics when recruiting new students, and some states require colleges to publish this information annually. These factors create a “gray area” where liability must be determined on a case by case basis.
Especially when the offense is something as serious as murder, the question of liability is rarely black and white. When, where, and under what circumstances the crime happened figure into how much responsibility falls on the school. If the court determines that the school failed to act reasonably or failed to take all the appropriate steps to prevent the crime, then a significant judgment may result.
Reasonable Duty to Protect Students
Schools don’t have a way to predict which individuals may have a propensity for violence unless the person has some history of such behavior. Therefore, when a student is murdered on campus, either by a fellow student or by someone not associated with the college, the school may or may not be liable. In some cases, though, the school fails to provide adequate protection. For example, improperly trained security guards or threats that go unaddressed may create liability if the court finds that the school was negligent or failed to behave reasonably.
Determining the Merits of Your Case
If you have lost someone you love to a crime on campus, and you believe the college may have some liability, contact a knowledgeable and experienced Charlottesville, VA wrongful death attorney for a consultation. A professional can help you determine if you have a case and what you can reasonably expect of the process and the award. Murders on college campuses are rare, but when they do happen, these cases often do end up in court. They don’t, however, always result in a judgment for the plaintiff. A realistic review of your case upfront can make the experience much less stressful.
Thanks to MartinWren, P.C. for their insight into personal injury claims and college liability in wrongful death.