Contact: Gina Lauterio
Federal Directive Triggered Spurt of Lawsuits Against Universities For Alleged Mishandling of Sexual Assault Cases, Report Says
WASHINGTON / September 7, 2016 – A report released today reveals a 2011 U.S. Department of Education sexual harassment directive led to a dramatic increase in the number of lawsuits alleging mishandling of allegations of sexual assault on campuses. Titled “Lawsuits Against Universities for Alleged Mishandling of Sexual Misconduct Cases,” the report found that the number of lawsuits by students tripled over an eight-year period.
During the period 2006-2010, a leading insurance company received an average of 52 claims per year from alleged victims of sexual assault and from students who asserted they were wrongfully expelled for sexual assault. By 2013, the number increased to 154 claims. Claims by students alleging lack of due process increased at an even higher rate, increasing from 10 lawsuits in 2013 to 53 in 2015.
These claims represent a growing liability risk for colleges and universities. During the period 2006 to 2010, payments to accused students represented 72% of all expenses for legal fees and payments to persons alleging mishandling of sexual assault cases by campus disciplinary committees, according to a leading insurance company. In July, Georgia Tech officials agreed to pay a male student $125,000 to settle a case in which he had been accused of sexual assault(1). Earlier this year, a former University of Montana quarterback received a $245,000 settlement for the university’s “unfair and biased” rape investigation (2).
The report provides a detailed analysis of 30 lawsuits in which a state or federal court ruled at least partly in favor of the accused student. For each of the 30 cases, the report identifies the causes of action. Among the most common causes of action, an allegation of lack of due process was successful in eight out of 11 cases (73%), followed by breach of contract (62%), Title IX violation (54%), and negligence (33%).
The report also details the relief requested for each lawsuit. Among the 30 lawsuits, a total of 198 types of relief were requested. The three
most commonly requested types of relief requested were reversal of the expulsion/ finding of guilt, just and proper, and reimbursement of attorneys’ fees.
The report highlights the most significant procedural and policy deficiencies identified in the judicial decisions. The deficiencies pertained to weak qualifications of university adjudicators, inappropriate use the word “victim,” selective enforcement of Title IX, investigational biases, weak cross-examination provisions, unfair appeal procedures, and affirmative consent policies.
The report notes that alleged victims of sexual assault have prevailed in numerous lawsuits, as well. The report concludes by noting the fundamental incompatibility between the requirements of the federal Department of Education 2011 Dear Colleague Letter and the mission and capabilities of colleges and universities.
Lawsuits Against Universities for Alleged Mishandling of Sexual Misconduct Cases represents the first detailed, quantitative analysis of sexual assault lawsuits filed by accused students. The report can be viewed here: http://www.saveservices.org/reports/
SAVE is working for balanced, evidence-based, constitutionally sound solutions to campus sexual assault: www.saveservices.org