Heymann & Fletcher

Premises liability suit follows alleged sexual assault

When an individual is present at a residence, place of business or institution n New Jersey or elsewhere, the owners and management has the responsibility of ensuring a reasonable level of safety to that visitor, resident or guest. Premises liability is the category of law created to address cases in which that standard of safety was not met, and where injury or other damages were caused as a result. Premises liability can be construed in a number of ways, some of which are far removed from the slip-and-fall example that most people are familiar with.

Take, for example, a recent lawsuit filed by two women against the fraternity Phi Kappa Tau. The young women claim that they were assaulted by members of the organization while on property owned by the national fraternity. As a result, their lawsuit includes claims of premises liability, in addition to negligent infliction of emotional distress and general negligence.

The alleged assault took place in February, when the women claim that they were plied with alcohol before blacking out and being sexually assaulted by the same male student. The lawsuit claims that members of the fraternity's leadership were aware of a "pro-rape" attitude within the group. That claim is backed up by written minutes of a meeting in which the quote "rape is good" was included.

The fraternity is also accused of maintaining an email and listserve through which members referred to women as "rape bait."  Those communications also suggested that in the event that a female was not receptive to advances, additional alcohol should be provided. Additionally, the fraternity is said to have posted a "conquest board" that listed the names of young women with whom members have had sexual relations.

As this case moves forward, New Jersey readers may learn more about the troubling accusations made within this unusual premises liability case. In the meanwhile, police are investigating the allegations of sexual assault, the student accused of those crimes has been expelled from the school and the fraternity has been kicked off of the school's campus. This may ease the minds of some parents who have children away at college, and may also prompt some interesting discussions when those students return home for the upcoming holidays.

Source: nique.net, "Phi Kappa Tau fraternity facing lawsuit", Kenneth Marino, Nov. 6, 2014

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