Jury finds Sewanee negligent in campus rape suit

By Bill Poovey, Associated Press

September 2, 2011

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — A federal jury decided Friday that Sewanee: The University of The South was negligent in handling a campus rape accusation but refused to award millions of dollars in damages to a former student.

The jury of seven women and two men awarded $50,000 in compensatory damages. However, the jurors found the former student — the plaintiff in the lawsuit — also partly responsible for the outcome of a rape complaint against him in 2008, and they decided the university owes the plaintiff just $26,500…

…The suit stemmed from a finding by the private, Episcopal-affiliated university that the then-freshman student was responsible for a rape. The university investigated, held a hearing and made the decision in response to a female student’s complaint that the plaintiff, identified in court only as “John Doe,” raped her in his dorm room after she had been drinking alcohol and was unable to consent to sex. Her statement in the rape complaint said she was prescribed mood-altering medications.

The plaintiff, who was never criminally charged, contended in his suit that she consented to sex and that the university’s disciplinary policy was rushed and unfair…

…After the former student was found responsible for the rape, the university forced him to leave campus and forfeit his more than $20,000 in tuition and fees. He was told he could reapply after a year with his record cleared but chose not to return and is attending another university.

Jurors decided there was no breach of contract but found the university was negligent in the handling of its investigative process and disciplinary hearing. They awarded no damages for pain and suffering and refused to award punitive damages…

…”We are pleased with the jury’s work and their decision,” said Rosemarie Bryan, an attorney for the university. “There aren’t any winners.”…

….Wayne described the jury’s decision as a “victory for the rights of students accused of sexual assault on campus.”…

…During the trial, Wayne told jurors that his client, an Eagle Scout and athlete, was already humiliated and could be forced to reveal on applications that he had been accused of rape if he applies for officer candidate school, military intelligence clearance or law school.

“No matter what path he tries in life, this will haunt him,” Wayne said…

Read more at Chron.com.