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Law School Case Brief

Mullins v. Pine Manor College - 389 Mass. 47, 449 N.E.2d 331 (1983)


The standard of foreseeability turns on an examination of all the circumstances. Prior criminal acts are simply one factor among others that establish the foreseeability of the act of the third party. 


After plaintiff, a female college student, was raped on campus by an unidentified assailant, she filed a personal injury action against defendants, a college and its vice president. A jury returned verdicts against defendants. Pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, § 85K, the trial judge reduced the amount of the judgment. Defendants appealed from the denial of their motions for directed verdicts and for judgments notwithstanding the verdicts. After granting defendants' applications for direct review, the court affirmed, holding that there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could have concluded that defendants were negligent, and that such negligence was a substantial cause of the attack. The court held that evidence established that defendants undertook to provide students with protection from the criminal acts of third parties by charging a fee for such service. Defendants' contention that the attack was not foreseeable was rejected because students had previously been warned of the dangers inherent in being housed near a large metropolitan area


Can the criminal attack here be considered foreseeable?




The Court here rejecets the argument advanced by the college and Person that the criminal attack here was not foreseeable. This contention is untenable in light of Person's  testimony which admitted that he had foreseen the risk that a student at Pine   Manor could be attacked and raped on campus. Indeed, the precautions which Pine Manor and other colleges take to protect their students against criminal acts of third parties would make little sense unless criminal acts were foreseeable. The director of student affairs testified that she warned students during freshman orientation of the dangers inherent in being housed at a women's college near a metropolitan area only a short distance from bus and train lines which lead directly to Boston. The risk of such a criminal act was not only foreseeable but was actually foreseen.

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