Can I sue my college for sexual misconduct after being assaulted by my RA?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can I sue my college for sexual misconduct after being assaulted by my RA?

Last fall semester at my university I, along with 2 of my roommates, were sexually assaulted by our RA. He groped us on multiple occasions and would tell us that he wanted to do explicit, sexually suggestive acts to us. He was under 21 at the time and would encourage us to embibe with him. We were made uncomfortable many, many times. We have videos connecting him to the drinking and

serving minors we were all under 21 at the time and of him dancing innappropriate as well as being incredibly intoxicated. He was also convicted of having a fake ID and was arrested for it. The university did not protect us from this behavior after details surfaced and the only action they took was demoting him from his position.

Asked on December 4, 2017 under Criminal Law, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Generally, an institution or employer is NOT liable or responsible for criminal actions of its personnel, since committing crimes is outside the scope of their responsibilties--it's not what they are compensated for doing or instructed to do, and their criminal acts are their acts solely, not those of their employer (in this case, the college).
There are two main exceptions to the above:
1) Sometimes you can show that the nature of the job led to this criminality, but that's not likely the case here: this applies mostly to situations like bar bouncers accused of assault, where the line between doing the job lawfully (gently but firmly escorting a troublemaker out) vs. a crime (e.g. assault) is a blurred one and only a matter of degree.
2) "Negligent supervision": IF you can show that the employer had warning before the assault on you of this RA's propensity for inappropriate or criminal sexual conduct and harassment--for example, that complaints about him had been made prior to your assault--then you may be able to hold the school liable for their failure to supervise him in an effective way and their careless (negligent) failure to take action in regard to complaints. But the complaints have to predate the assault on you, so they had prior warning which they ignored; after-the-fact complaints will not make the school liable to you.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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