Potential Civil Liability for Criminal Acts on College and University Campuses

Author:Mr Alan Watson
Profession:Holland & Knight LLP

The media often focuses on crimes committed at colleges and universities or committed by students on and off campus. Whether an assault by a student-athlete, dorm theft, drunk driving or more heinous crimes, the media raises the profile of criminal behavior on campus, even if only tangentially related to the school or its student body. Colleges and universities everywhere should be concerned about possible civil liability for injuries resulting from these actions.

In most states, the general rule is that the law does not impose liability on schools for the criminal actions of third parties unless there is a special relationship between the school and either the person injured or the person causing the injury. At the grade school level, the special relationship nearly always exists between students and schools, stemming principally from the state's requirement to provide an education.

Colleges and universities do not have the same automatic special relationship. When a special relationship exists, it is not easily quantified. Although colleges and universities have been held liable for others' criminal acts on and off campus, case law supportive of colleges and universities exists - finding no...

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