Law School Case Brief
Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Superior Court - 4 Cal. 5th 607, 230 Cal. Rptr. 3d 415, 413 P.3d 656 (2018)
There is generally no duty to protect others from the conduct of third parties. The special relationship doctrine is an exception to this general rule. Accordingly, as a consequence of the special relationship between colleges and their students, colleges generally owe a duty to use reasonable care to protect their students from foreseeable acts of violence in the classroom or during curricular activities.
After he enrolled in the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Damon Thompson experienced auditory hallucinations. He believed other students in the classroom and dormitory were criticizing him. School administrators eventually learned of Thompson's delusions and attempted to provide mental health treatment. However, one morning Thompson stabbed fellow student Katherine Rosen during a chemistry lab. Rosen sued the Regents of the University of California and several of its employees for negligence, arguing they failed to protect her from Thompson's foreseeable violent conduct. The superior court denied the University and its employees’ motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeal granted their petition for a writ of mandate, holding that UCLA owed no duty to protect Rosen based on her status as a student or business invitee, or based on the negligent undertaking doctrine.
Do universities have a duty to use reasonable care to protect their students from foreseeable acts of violence in the classroom or during curricular activities?
The Supreme Court of California reversed the decision of the Court of Appeal and remanded for further proceedings. The court held that universities do have a legal duty, under certain circumstances, to protect or warn their students from foreseeable violence in the classroom or during curricular activities. The trial court properly denied UCLA's motion for summary judgment on this ground. While the Supreme Court concluded UCLA did owe a duty to protect Rosen, it remanded for the Court of Appeal to decide whether triable issues of material fact existed on the questions of breach and immunity. Rosen failed to plead or support a claim against a UCLA psychologist under Civ. Code, § 43.92.
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