Simpson found not liable in 1997 campus incident

by Courtney Kirkland

Simpson College holds no legal responsibility for a 1997 sexualassault incident on campus, a federal appeals court ruled Nov.17.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis upheld thedecision by a lower court that Simpson is not liable for theassault even though the then-student, Scott Busch, worked as acampus security officer when the incident took place, and theon-duty resident assistant, Brian Huggins didn’t come to thevictim’s immediate aid.

According to court documents, the assault took place after thevictim attended a party hosted by Busch, John Hatfield and GeneHildreth in Busch and Hildreth’s dorm room.

The victim, who was Busch’s former girlfriend at the time,became “visibly intoxicated,” the court said, during the party.Busch carrier her to bed afer she became ill and the two had sexualintercourse.

Busch claimed the sex was consensual, while the victim claimedshe was sexually assaulted and didn’t remember the encounter. Thecourt later found that Hildreth and Hatfield arrived back at theroom later and fondled the victim’s breasts at Busch’sinvitation.

The victim sued Busch for negligence and delivery of alcohol toa minor; Busch, Hildreth and Hatfield for sexual battery; andSimpson College for the actions of Busch and Huggins as Simpsonemployees.

The appeals court affirmed $81,000 in damages against Busch,Hildreth and Hatfield, yet dismissed all claims of negligenceagainst Simpson.

“Simpson College cannot be responsible for any negligent actsthat their employees may perform while off duty,” Chief JudgeLavenski R. Smith of the 8th Circuit wrote in the court’sdecision.

The victim claimed the college failed to protect her because theRA was aware of her intoxication and failed to shield her from theassault. The appeals court disagreed.

“The general rule is that no special relationship exists betweena college and its own students because a college is not the ensurerof the safety of its own students,” Smith wote.

According to Stephanie Krauth, associate dean of students,Simpson’s policies regarding situations similar to the 1997occurrence have remained the same since the incident.

Krauth said if an RA becomes aware of a resident or visitor ofthe residence hall’s intoxication, they are to respond depending onthe severity of the situation.

Krauth said if the intoxicated person just needs to “sleep ifoff” then an RA is supposed to ask a friend of the person to staywith them and monitor their condition. If alcohol poisoning seemslikely and conditions appear severe, then the RA should call thearea coordinator on-duty and seek medical assistance.

“We can’t expect an RA to be the babysitter,” Krauth said, “butwe do our best to make sure the situation doesn’t become harmful tothat person.”

Krauth said throughout the years the Residence Life staff hascontinually updated procedures to keep students safe. In 2002,community assistants were added to each apartment building, andarea coordinators took on the role of supervising CA’s.

Recently, in addition to intense alcohol training, proceduresconcerning the overdose of prescription medicine have been added tothe RA training curriculum.

Krauth said the most important thing stressed to RA’s is gettingto know the residents. She said this may help prevent problems anduncertainty for the RA on whether an incident might becometroublesome for a student.

Regardless, Krauth said that if an RA follows the standardprotocol, they are fulfilling their obligation.

“If they’ve done everything they knew they could and should,then they wouldn’t be liable today, either,” she said.