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New Cases and Developments

NACUA's Legal Resources staff summarizes current higher education cases and developments and provides the full text of selected cases to members. New cases and developments are archived here for up to 12 months.  Cases provided by Fastcase, Inc.

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Risk Management; Compliance & Risk Management

Jessica Colmorgen v. Bd. of Trustees of Cornell University, et al. (N.Y. Sup. Ct. September 11, 2017)

Decision granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment and denying Plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. A student at Cornell University, slipped and fell due to a pool of water that collected in a depression in the bathroom floor of her residence hall. Plaintiff sued Defendants on the theory of premises liability, but the court found that Plaintiff did not allege any facts showing that Defendants created, or had any actual or constructive knowledge of the alleged dangerous condition. Moreover, Plaintiff’s admission that she saw the pool of water long before she slipped and fell absolved the University of any duty to warn.  

9/18/2017
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Risk Management; Compliance & Risk Management

Gerber v. Ohio Northern University (6th Cir. Aug. 17, 2017)

Opinion and Order affirming the district court’s judgment in favor of Defendant. Plaintiff, a Law Professor at Ohio Northern University's Pettit College of Law (ONU), alleged that the interim dean "verbally berated and attacked” him while grabbing and squeezing his shoulder during an argument in the hallway. Plaintiff claimed that the interaction caused him “mental anguish” and “emotional distress,” along with physical injury to his shoulder. Plaintiff sued the interim dean, Ohio Northern, and several Ohio Northern employees for assault and battery. After dismissing Plaintiff’s claims against ONU, the district court ruled in favor of the interim dean. Finding no reversible error, the Sixth Circuit affirmed. The district court’s decisions to deny Plaintiff’s requests for stay did not amount to "judicial bias and/or hostility,” its denial of a continuance was not an abuse of discretion or a violation of Plaintiff’s right to due process, and the district judge’s declining to recuse himself did not amount to an abuse of discretion. Moreover, the district court had good reason to conclude that the interim dean did not have the requisite intent required to assert an assault claim and that Plaintiff failed to show that the touching of his shoulder was harmful or offensive.  

8/21/2017
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Risk Management; Compliance & Risk Management

Trippany v. Bossier Parish Community College (La. App. Aug. 2, 2017)

Opinion affirming the jury’s judgment in favor of Defendants-Appellees. A student at Bossier Parish Community College (BPCC) slipped and fell near a puddle of water on the floor that materialized after BPCC employees and students carried in some equipment during a brief rain shower. At the time of the incident, BPCC's safety policy required employees to guard against water dripping onto the floor when wet items are brought inside. Plaintiff-Appellant filed a negligence suit against BPCC, the Board of Supervisors of Community and Technical Colleges, and the State of Louisiana. After weighing the evidence, a jury found that Defendants-Appellees did not breach a duty of care owed to Plaintiff. Plaintiff appealed, asserting that the jury erred because the college's employees allowed water to drip on the floor, contrary to BPCC policy. The court affirmed the jury’s judgment, finding that the evidence presented supported a finding that Plaintiff-Appellant did not in fact slip in the puddle of water and therefore that she could not establish that Defendants-Appellees breached their duty of care. 

8/2/2017
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Risk Management; Compliance & Risk Management

Roberts v. Mars Hill University (N.C. App. July 5, 2017)

Unpublished Opinion affirming the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to Mars Hill University. Plaintiff suffered serious physical injuries after being involved in a physical altercation with four other students, whom he believed had pulled a prank on him. He sued the University and its Board of Trustees, seeking damages for negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and “willful and wanton disregard” for Plaintiff’s rights. The trial court granted the University’s Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiff appealed. The appeals court affirmed, concluding that evidence indicating 41% of the University Police Department’s calls on campus involved Plaintiff’s dormitory did not render the criminal acts of the students foreseeable, and therefore that Mars Hill had not breached some legal duty to safeguard Plaintiff against physical attack by other students. 

7/7/2017
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Risk Management; Compliance & Risk Management

Montany v. University of New England (1st Cir. May 30, 2017)

Order affirming the district court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of Defendants. Plaintiff was an occupational therapy student at the University of New England (UNE), which required her to pass a series of practical exams. She was injured during one of these exams when a program instructor, acting as a patient who was unable to stand, feigned a falling motion during a mock transfer. After receiving a failing score on the exam and a retake, Plaintiff filed a negligence suit against UNE and the instructor, claiming that the instructor placed her at unreasonable risk of injury during the practical exam by requiring her to bear more weight than she could have been expected to handle. After discovery was complete, the district court granted summary judgment to Defendants because Plaintiff failed to designate an expert to determine whether the circumstances of the practical exam warranted a finding that Defendants breached the requisite standard of care. Plaintiff appealed, claiming that expert testimony was not required here because the negligence and harmful results of a 210lb instructor dropping his weight on a female student were “sufficiently obvious as to lie within common knowledge.” The First Circuit disagreed and affirmed the district court’s ruling. It also affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Defendants on Plaintiff’s contract claims.

5/31/2017
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Risk Management; Compliance & Risk Management

Duff v. Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (Ga. App. May 24, 2017)

Order reversing the lower court’s grant of summary judgment to the Board of Regents. A student at Georgia Perimeter College slipped and fell in rainwater that had been tracked into the building by other students and personnel. She sued the College’s Board of Regents on the theory of premises liability, but the lower  court granted summary judgment to the Board, finding that Plaintiff failed to meet her threshold burden to show that the rainwater on the floor amounted to a hazardous condition as a matter of law. On appeal, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed. It was undisputed that Plaintiff did not have any actual knowledge that it was raining and fell in the interior portion of the building while walking between classrooms, and therefore her case did not fall within court precedent holding that invitees are charged with the knowledge that rainwater will accumulate on the floor when it rains outdoors.

5/26/2017
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