When tragedy strikes, we are generally told not to blame the victim. Unfortunately, it’s human nature to do so, especially when the victims are women who have been sexually assaulted.
Ten different women filing similar allegations against Baylor University in Texas allege their rights were denied and/or violated under federal law. All the women allege they were sexually assaulted, either on school grounds and/or by other students, including at least one football player.
When the women reported the assaults to Baylor University officials, they’re reports were allegedly ignored and treated with indifference. Now the women have filed a total of six lawsuits against the school for allegedly violating their Title IX rights.
Baylor submitted requests for the first four lawsuits to be dismissed. It has not yet asked the court to dismiss the two lawsuits that were most recently filed, but it may still do so in the future. According to Baylor, the allegations submitted by the ten different women did not bear enough similarities to be filed jointly. Since they involved different places, victims, contexts, and alleged attackers, Baylor argued the combined cases should be dismissed and filed individually.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman disagreed, refusing all four of Baylor’s motions to dismiss. In his written decision, Pitman noted the similarities in claims brought by all the plaintiffs, namely their alleged mistreatment by Baylor officials, which allegedly resulted in deprivation of educational opportunities, either as a direct or indirect result of the trauma they suffered and the school’s refusal to properly handle the situation.
Baylor claims the women failed to report the incidents to the proper school authorities, but Judge Pitman didn’t see anything to back up that claim in any of the complaints filed. Pitman points out that, according to the plaintiffs, they each talked to people at either the Baylor Police Department and/or the Baylor Counseling Center, both of which were established for the express purpose of supporting students.
The way Pitman sees it, those were the appropriate people to whom the women should have reported the attacks. The officials at both the Baylor Police Department and the Baylor Counseling Center were equipped to take further action. Instead, they allegedly dismissed the claims of the plaintiffs, including questioning one about her alcohol consumption the night of the attack and giving her nothing more than a lecture on drinking. Another plaintiff was allegedly misinformed of her Title IX rights by a Baylor University official.
In addition to the Title IX allegations, the lawsuits also filed claims under Texas state law for breach of contract and negligence, but Pitman denied those claims. A spokesperson for Baylor said they feel encouraged by the judge’s decision to refuse to allow the state claims to move forward. They also said they are looking forward to the discovery process, in which they can prove the school’s innocence.
Chad Dunn, an attorney for one of the plaintiffs, said Pitman’s decision to allow the class to move on in the courts is a leap forward, not just for the 10 plaintiffs involved in these lawsuits, but for women all over the country who suffer from sexual assault, especially on school grounds, where they should be protected from discrimination by Title IX.
Super Lawyers named Chicago and Oak Brook business trial attorneys Peter Lubin and Vincent DiTommaso 2015 Super Lawyers in the Categories of Class Action, Business Litigation and Consumer Rights Litigation. DiTommaso Lubin Austermuehle’s Oak Brook and Chicago business trial lawyers have over a quarter of century of experience in litigating complex class action, consumer rights and business and commercial litigation disputes. Our Title IX attorneys have represented students and College Administrators wrongfully accused of misconduct in internal school proceedings and in court. We also handle emergency business law suits involving injunctions, and TROS, covenant not to compete, franchise, distributor and dealer wrongful termination and trade secret lawsuits and many different kinds of business disputes involving shareholders, partnerships, closely held businesses and employee breaches of fiduciary duty. We also assist businesses and business owners who are victims of fraud.
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