It is always a difficult task to find liability of a third party or entity for the unanticipated criminal conduct or actions of another. The reason for this is the very premise that the conduct is not known to or anticipated by the party.
The 2nd District Court of Appeal has now taken this concept one step further by holding that public universities have no duty to protect students from third party conduct, even when the university has knowledge of the past dangerous behavior or threats by the third party! This decision arises out of a situation where a student at UCLA was stabbed and had her throat slashed by a classmate, where it was allegedly known by university personnel of the mental illness and past history of on-campus altercations of the perpetrator.
The 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that “a public university has no general duty to protect its students from the criminal acts of other students.” The decision is based upon current precedents that post-secondary institutions do not have the same special relationship or duty of care with adult students as elementary and high schools have toward minors. This current ruling appears limited to public universities and adult students and leaves open the issue of potential liability for criminal actions of third parties in other education and/or premises settings. This 2nd District ruling is a very cautious, conservative and safe decision in light of the many other potential theories of liability available to the court.
Adult or public university students should be aware of their surroundings and fellow students. No warnings need be given by the educational institution to be wary of potential criminal conduct of others.
If you have any claim for injury incurred at the hands of another, the Law Offices of Heiting & Irwin will provide consultation as to your potential claim(s).