Sunday, May 15, 2011

Negligent Security at Universities

A Pennsylvania negligent security case was decided by jury verdict about 10 years ago with interesting results. The matter titled Bannister v. Temple University was and action brought against the defendant Temple University by the plaintiff, Banister, who was a student at the university when he was attacked in the school gymnasium. Bannister claimed that the University failed to have adequate security in place to prevent the attack. Temple argued that its security was adequate and that its campus crime rate was lower than other local colleges.

Bannister, 22 at the time of trial, testified that he was playing basketball in the university gymnasium when three men attacked him. The assailants, whom Bannister described as high-school kids, were never caught. Bannister had one security expert testify that the crime was predictable in light of the high crime area in which the school was located. Bannister’s second security expert stated that the presence of a security guard at the entrance of the gym and additional surveillance equipment would have prevented the assault.

Bannister suffered bilateral orbital fractures as a result of the assault. His ophthalmologist testified that he also suffered reduced angle recession causing restricted drainage of fluid from the eye and placing him at greater risk for development of glaucoma.

The evidence at trial showed that there were security guards posted at each entrance of the building at the time of the assault. The defendant university had announced plans to place an additional guard at the gymnasium entrance beginning on September 1, 1997. However, as of the date of the incident on September 27, 1997, the additional guard had not been placed. No explanation was provided as to how the assailants had gotten into the gymnasium.

The University’s security expert testified that Temple’s security plan was adequate and the security personnel was well supervised i.e. this was not negligent security. Temple’s expert opined that additional surveillance equipment would not have prevented the attack. The defense ophthalmologist testified that the plaintiff's reduced angle recession could have been caused by any number of previous traumas.

Oddly, the jury found that the defendant was negligent, but that its negligence was not a substantial factor in causing injury to the plaintiff. This is certainly an odd outcome. I can only assume that the jurors reasoned that the damages were caused by the assailants and the injuries that they caused were not foreseeable despite the University being negligent.

Read my previous post on negligent security here.   Share this post :
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