Court Finds that College Should Have Warned Player about Danger

Jan 2, 2009

A Virginia state court judge has overruled the demurrer of a college’s athletic association, finding that a student-athlete who sued the college after she was assaulted at a basketball game has “sufficiently” alleged that the school was negligent.
Specifically, the court found that officials at St. Paul’s College knew of the risk to opposing teams and players and should have taken steps to protect the plaintiff.
The incident occurred on February 2, 2006 during a women’s basketball game between the Livingstone College and Saint Paul’s College, which was held at the latter’s gym in Brunswick County, Virginia.
During the course of the game, Livingstone College’s Turquoise Lane was assaulted by a member of the Saint Paul’s women’s basketball team. “Numerous Saint Paul’s students, athletes, and agents entered the basketball court and joined Saint Paul’s players in assaulting and battering Lane,” wrote the court.
The court further noted that the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association is responsible for all aspects of athletic events involving conference members, such as Saint Paul’s College, “including organizing, sponsoring, facilitating, overseeing, advertising, financing, hosting, securing, and officiating. The CIAA owed certain duties to Lane, as it was the sponsor of the event, was responsible for scheduling of the event, oversaw all CIAA events, oversaw and coordinated the management of CIAA events (including security), and was responsible for educating and training its member institutions.
“The CIAA knew that Saint Paul’s was a high crime location, that criminal assaults against individuals had occurred and would continue to occur at Saint Paul’s, and that Saint Paul’s provided a known target for repeat criminal activity, including assaultive crimes on Saint Paul’s students, employees, invitees, and guests. The CIAA was specifically informed that students, employees, invitees, and guests were at a specific imminent risk for harm to their persons, and that additional security steps should be taken to prevent such harm from occurring. Lane had no reason to know the information possessed by the CIAA, and therefore was unlikely to be able to protect herself or to take evasive action if attacked. The assault on Lane was very similar to the type of criminal activities and assaults that had occurred in the recent past at Saint Paul’s.
“The CIAA failed to do the following: (1) To have adequate security personnel, equipment, and procedures in place; (2) To train its employees, contractors, and agents to prevent and/or respond to security events; (3) To warn Lane of the imminent risk she faced; (4) To control its employees, contractors, students, and agents to prevent them from assaulting Lane; and (5) To exercise reasonable care for the protection of Lane when it knew or should have known that Lane was at imminent risk of harm to her person. The CIAA knew that Lane had no reason to expect that she was at imminent risk for harm from an assault and, therefore, knew that warnings had to be given to Lane in order for her to have any opportunity to protect herself against harm.”
After the incident, Lane filed her negligence claim.
The first hurdle for the plaintiff to clear was alleging that the defendant owed her a legal duty, which she achieved by arguing that “because (the defendant) scheduled the event, oversaw it, coordinated management, coordinated security and were responsible for educating and training the institutions, they took on a duty.”
The second element that the plaintiff had to allege was a breach of the duty owed by the CIAA to the plaintiff. She accomplished this, according to the court, by showing that the defendant “took on a duty and they breached it by failing to have adequate security in place, failing to have adequate equipment in place, failing to have adequate procedures in place, failing to train, failing to warn, failing to control.”
The third and final element of a negligence claim was proximate causation, which results in injury.
“As a result of the injuries sustained because of the defendants’ conduct, Lane has suffered serious and permanent injuries, pain and suffering, mental anguish, permanent disability, lost income and loss of earning capacity, all of which will continue in the future and Lane has incurred and will incur in the future, doctors’ and related medical bills in an effort to be cured of injuries sustained as a result of the defendants’ conduct.
“Based on these allegations, the Court finds that Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged the third element of a negligence claim against the CIAA — that is, that the CIAA’s breach of its duty was the proximate cause of her injuries.”
In sum, the court found that Lane “alleged all three elements of a negligence claim against this defendant, therefore informing it of the true nature of the claim against it.”
Turquoise Lane v. Saint Paul’s College, et Al.; Cir. Ct. of Brunswick Co., Va.; Case No.: CL08-11, 2008 Va. Cir. LEXIS 133; 10/1/08


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