Nova Southeastern Univ. v. Gross

758 So. 2d 86 (Fla. 2000)

 

RULE:

The extent of the duty a school owes to its students should be limited by the amount of control the school has over the student's conduct. 

FACTS:

Bethany Jill Gross, a twenty-three year old graduate student attending Nova Southeastern University, was criminally assaulted while leaving an off-campus internship site. Gross filed a negligence action against Nova based on Nova's alleged negligence in assigning her to perform an internship at a facility which Nova knew was unreasonably dangerous and presented an unreasonable risk of harm. Defendant argued that duty of care was minimal in case of adults who were off school premises, and that at most it had a duty to warn; it did remind students of urban dangers. The court held that the special relationship doctrine imposing higher duty of care on schools was indeed attenuated in case of adult programs conducted off premises, but internship was a graduation requirement and was arranged by defendant. The duty to exercise reasonable care arose as soon as defendant undertook to act, and this demanded a higher degree of care than the mere duty to warn that arose in premises liability situations. A jury might determine that defendant exercised reasonable care, but that was for it to decide.

ISSUE:

May a University be found liable in tort, where it assigns a student to an internship site which it knows to be unreasonably dangerous, but gives no warning, or inadequate warning, to the student, and the student is subsequently injured while participating in the internship?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

As Nova had control over the students' conduct by requiring them to do the practicum and by assigning them to a specific location, it also assumed the Hohfeldian correlative duty of acting reasonably in making those assignments. In a case such as this one, where the university had knowledge that the internship location was unreasonably dangerous, it should be up to the jury to determine whether the university acted reasonably in assigning students to do internships at that location.

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