Assault Lawsuit Contested
By JESSICA MASULLI and HEATHER BRADY
The Attorney General’s Office is seeking to dismiss a $10 million lawsuit against the University of Mary Washington that was filed last year on behalf of a former UMW student who was raped in the campus parking deck.
In asking to dismiss the case, the Commonwealth of Virginia, representing UMW, cites two main reasons that the lawsuit has no legal grounds. The Fredericksburg Circuit Court will decide if the case is dismissed on March 28.
First, they cite no “special relationship” between students and the university that would obligate UMW to protect its students.
Second, UMW did not have any knowledge that an attack would occur, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
“The person who committed the assault should be brought to justice,” said the Attorney General’s written response. “But the Commonwealth of Virginia cannot be held liable in this case because it did not violate a legal duty it owed to anyone.”
The original lawsuit was filed against the university on Nov. 30, 2010 alleging negligence in providing a secure environment for students.
The victim was sexually assaulted in the parking deck on Oct. 3, 2008 at 2 a.m.
It is the Bullet’s policy not to name victims of sexual assault.
The victim, who is represented by Attorney Lewis Lowery, is suing UMW, but the defendant is listed as the Commonwealth of Virginia since UMW is a state school.
Lowery is unable to give a quote specifically regarding the case out of concern for tainting the jury pool. UMW Spokesman George Farrar was also unable to comment because the case is still ongoing.
According to the lawsuit, there were three criminal incidents near the university that should have alerted UMW to the possibility of a similar attack:
-On July 1, 2008, a female jogger was allegedly attacked on a street near UMW.
-On July 3, 2008, a pizza delivery man was stabbed and abducted on Charles Street.
-On Aug. 12, 2008, a young female was raped at home in Stafford County.
However, the Attorney General’s Office stated in the request for dismissal that these attacks were far away, at different times of day and under different circumstances.
“It is not plausible, nor possible to allege with a straight face, that the three previous alleged crimes…provided imminent danger of harm on the early morning when she was attacked,” said the Attorney General’s written response.
Citing the Supreme Court of Virginia’s rulings in specific cases, the response states that no “special relationship exists between a public university and a student.”
Lowery said that many statements from the original lawsuit were not recognized in the Attorney General’s response.
“They think I am trying to pull a fast one,” said Lowery. “They’re wrong about that.”